Sounds like the perfect day, doesn’t it?

Cuddled up in a toasty duvet on the sofa, with warm mug of hot chocolate, with no responsibilities other than switching the TV channel. Knowing your team mates are stuck at their desk or rushing between meetings makes it even sweeter.

But how do you feel as a boss, knowing someone is chilling at home, taking an easy day off, when they could be in the office working on that precious deadline?

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

Let’s have a look at what they are, who they actually help, and whether or not you should use them.

What is a duvet day?

A duvet day is an unscheduled day off because you don't feel like working. It’s a ‘just because’ day, a day to unwind and take the burden of responsibility away 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 that to say you are taking a duvet day.

It does have some crossover with a mental health day, although you’re more likely to see duvet days provided for in an absence policy. 'Two duvet days per year’ might be in the list of perks, signalling a fairly progressive attitute towards time off. Whereas mental health days tend to be for specific conditions, like a flare-up of an anxiety disorder or seeing a therapist.

Why do companies offer duvet days?

Let’s be honest - everyone needs one now and again. 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 angle on that (and a good way to separate sickness from 'can't-be-arsed-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.

There’s also the obvious advantage in positioning it as a benefit to help attract the best staff.

Are duvet days a good idea?

We think duvet days are a good idea on the whole. 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 friends Birthday, a concert, the theatre. Some struggle to sleep, 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 arn't machines.

It's just a day off work.

What’s wrong with duvet days?

From a business point of view, there are some things to keep in mind.

If you’re a small company with single points of failure (e.g. only one person who has the passwords for your website admin), someone 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.

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

Doing this will clearly be better for your recovery, and the company can plan for you being away for a while.

Duvet days can also impact the business by introducing last-minute complications. During quiet times for your company, a duvet day won’t make much difference, but if your team is struggling to finish an important project before a deadline, hearing that somone has binned-off the day in favour of Netflix 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.

Is it good to have Duvet Days?

Duvet days are a kind, proactive way of helping people cope with the pressures of the modern workplace. Allowing them builds trust in the eyes of employees - especially as they themselves are trusted to not take the mick by abusing a generous absence policy.

Consider the alternative - anyone wanting to take a duvet day isn’t likely to be much use in the office anyway. If they’re really run down and low on energy, a good portion of their time will be unproductive - meaning the business doesn’t benefit from them being there, and they don’t get to rest & recharge. Nobody wins.

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.

Final thoughts

Allowing a couple of duvet days per year could be a really positive step for you, helping to prevent more serious sickness by giving a break when it’s really needed - something you can’t always plan for.