Sounds like the perfect day, doesn't it?

You’re snuggled up on the sofa under a toasty blanket, with a mug of hot chocolate. You’ve got no responsibilities other than changing the TV channel. And thinking of your teammates stuck at work makes it even sweeter.

This is a duvet day, and it is glorious.

But how do you feel as a boss, knowing someone is chilling at home, when they could be in the office working on that important project?

Duvet days divide opinion. Some people see them as a good perk to attract the best staff. Others think they’re harmful to businesses.

But we think they’re the best thing since holidays were invented. Here’s why.

What is a duvet day?

A duvet day is a permitted, unscheduled day off that an employee takes when they don't feel like working. It’s a time when they can unwind, free of responsibilities, for one blissful day.

A duvet day is a no-questions-asked kinda thing - it differs from other absences in that you don't need to provide a reason for it, other than to say that you’re taking your duvet day entitlement.

It’s often a perk that’s covered in employee agreements. Alongside someone’s annual leave entitlement, a company might allow them one duvet day per year.

In short: it's one of those days where you absolutely, thoroughly, undeniably cannot be arsed. And companies that recognise this happens will have happier, healthier workers.

Are duvet days a good idea?

Yes – we think duvet days are a good idea. We all have times where we just don’t want to work, not through laziness, but through temporary burnout that comes from busy periods in our lives. It shouldn’t be shameful or immoral to want to just chill for a while.

People have lives to live. They go out, get drunk. They have late nights on school days, maybe a friend's birthday, a concert, the theatre. Some struggle to sleep or have noisy neighbours; they get tired, exhausted, emotional.

A duvet day is just a way to accept that life has ups and downs and people aren't machines.

It's just a day off work.

Are they the same as mental health absence?

There is some crossover with taking a mental health day, but they’re not quite the same.

Mental health days tend to be for specific ailments or needs, like a flare-up of an anxiety disorder or visiting a therapist. Whereas duvet days are more geared towards general apathy, emotional malaise, or simply needing an unplanned rest.

You’re more likely to see duvet days mentioned in an absence policy than mental health days, which can be known as wellbeing days or something similar. 'Two duvet days per year’ might be in the list of perks, signalling a fairly progressive attitude towards time off.

Why should companies offer duvet days?

As a company, there are a few different benefits to allowing official duvet days for your staff:

  • Prevents unmotivated staff coming to work. Do you really want people sat at their desks feeling down and unproductive? Probably not – and you don’t want them bringing down the mood of others, either.
  • Gives a more accurate view of sickness absence. In many cases, duvet days would be marked down as sickness if you didn’t recognise them properly. This unnecessarily inflates the number of sick days for you and your staff.
  • Helps prevent longer periods of absence. If someone really needs an impromptu day off, it might be ‘just because’ – or it could be a sign of burnout. By releasing the pressure every now and then, you might be preventing someone from reaching boiling point.
  • Promotes healthy company culture. Companies with a duvet day policy are typically those that value and encourage people taking time off. If people use it properly, they’ll be healthier and more productive.
  • Attracts more talent. It’s a benefit few employees would complain about. Duvet days are a compassionate way of showing understanding towards employees as human beings – great for your employer branding.

The downsides of duvet days

From an employer’s point of view, there are some things to keep in mind with duvet days.

If you’re a small company with single points of failure (like only one person having the passwords for your website admin), an employee taking a last-minute day off might create problems, especially if you can't reach them in an emergency.

You might lock out certain ‘crunch’ times to be ’no duvet day’ periods to combat this. (Timetastic has a feature called 'Lock dates' which specifically covers this. It's just a few clicks to 'lock' the days so no one can book that time off.)

You also need to be careful of duvet days being used as a temporary fix, instead of sick days, where there's an underlying issue. If someone’s stressed or having mental health struggles a duvet day won’t help the greater problem. The better thing to do would be for them to call in and take a few sick days, or a week off, take some proper time to recover, and try to see a doctor.

Duvet days can also impact the business by introducing last-minute complications. During quiet times for your company, a lost day won’t make much difference, but if your team is struggling to finish an important project before a deadline, hearing that someone has binned off the day to catch up on their Netflix watchlist might annoy some people.

There’s also a more philosophical angle - if everyone in the company takes their maximum duvet day allowance each year, might there be something wrong with the company? What’s causing people to be away from work as much as possible? That’s something worth investigating.

If you want to see how Lock dates work, or how you can track duvet days in Timetastic. You're welcome to take a free trial or have a demo via zoom - here's the link to start your free trial.

A great step towards work-life balance

Duvet days go hand-in-hand with a positive company culture, where everyone takes the right amount of leave to stay healthy and productive. People should feel they’re allowed to stay home when necessary, so they don’t spread minor illnesses around the office. And preventative care is important too; encouraging staff to take their full holiday allowance through the year will mean they’re well-rested and happy.

And let’s be honest - everyone needs one now and again.

You wake up one day and feel pretty grim. There’s nothing specifically wrong with you, so you don’t need sick leave – but the weekend is ages away and you just really fancy a lie-in. You might be tired, or you just might not be in the right frame of mind for work.

You might have ‘pulled a sickie’ at some point when you weren’t sick, just because you couldn't face work that day. Duvet days give you a compassionate way of dealing with this (and a good way to separate sickness from 'can't-be-bothered-to-work’). It’s a type of absence that doesn’t really fit into any other categories, but tackles a problem we all know exists.

Let's face it – sometimes your energy levels are low, so your productivity would be low anyway. Forcing yourself into work is a bit pointless.

So allowing a couple of duvet days per year could be a really positive step for you and your employees. It’s one of those benefits that improves mental and physical health, helps prevent stress, and wards off more serious workplace sickness. It provides a break when it’s really needed - something you can’t always plan for.