These are the 5 reasons workers are scared to call out sick

There is an art to making up an excuse to take a sick day and apparently the world is full of artists. According to a new survey conducted by lying employees racked up a collective 51.9 million sick days by the end of 2019.

At my last job, I contracted scurvy on four consecutive Super Bowl Mondays before my boss got wise to my scheme.  While others hopefully fabricate more convincing illnesses, the trend is actually rising among Generation Z and Millennials.

Growing in tandem with submitting false reasons for taking off from work is the stigma associated with doing so for any reason.

In the same poll of 2,000 participants, 74% of workers said that they feel under pressure to avoid taking sick days. This figure surges to 88% when you isolate the Millennials and Gen Zers that felt this way.

“The three most common causes for pressure related to sick days come from managers and the stressful workloads they’re piling on their team. It could be that managers aren’t doing enough to allow their staff to take time off when they’re unwell,” the study’s author wrote in the report.

Down with the sickness

The top five reasons employees abstained from taking days off from work are as follows: pressure from management (23%), informing a supervisor about sickness made them anxious (21%), pressure from team members (21%) the fear that they have already taken too many sick days (12%), and the worry that calling out will negatively affect their chances at a promotion (11%).

Even though younger generations tend to lie about being sick more often far less older respondents felt ashamed to call out of work-justifiably or not.


Seventy-one percent of Millenials and Gen Zers surveyed don’t believe that poor mental health constitutes a day off, 61% said the same about having a fever and half would go into work the day after a hospital visit. The largest majority believed food poisoning warrants a call out but virtually every other ailment was attended by conflicting opinions—none more so than mental illness.

One and three respondents didn’t believe missing work as a result of a psychological disorder should be classified as a sick day.

“Despite the growing education around mental health and burnout, just 29% believe poor mental health warrants time off, and even less (22%) say burnout constitutes a sick day. This means, while 25-34-year olds are suggesting they feel pressure from their manager to avoid taking sick days, they’re also feeling the pressure from their peers and from themselves to battle their way through whatever illness they may have,” the authors added.

Slacks on fire

This culmination of stigmas and pressures perceived by younger generations results in 71% admitting to habitually lying about being sick in order to get out of going to work-the highest concentration of liars involved in the Viking study.  According to their research fib-induced absenteeism cost companies around $5.6 billion in 2019. Here are some of the stranger lies ordered by believability:

.        “I was bitten by a pigeon”

·       “I have jet lag from a flight back from Malaga”

·       “I was held hostage by a terrorist”

·       “My dog has a headache”

·       “My sister got lost in a cornfield in a corn colored jacket”

The irony is Millennials and Gen Zers believe that taking off on account of actual sickness is both shameful and un-warranted but when they want to call out to justify making time for recreational activities they lie about being sick to cover their tracks.

“Younger generations are more likely to lie about being sick to accommodate the likes of a hangover recovery or catching up on a TV series, yet are taking less sick days for legitimate illnesses due to the pressure from their workload and those around them,” Viking concludes. “It would be beneficial for businesses to address the stigma surrounding sick days and encourage younger employees to take time off when required, while being more open and honest about the sick days they do take.”