What is a duvet day?

Nicole Honeywill Duvet - What is a duvet day?

We all know that “duvet day” feeling. It’s when you just can’t seem to garner the motivation to get going and would prefer to shut off the alarm, turn over and go back to sleep.

When people feel like this, some will call in sick– even though they’re not – to be able to take the day off. However, to avoid this sort of absence, many companies have formalised duvet days into their terms of employment. 

What is a duvet day?

A duvet day is one of a number of days that an employee can take off without notice in advance. They are built into the annual holiday allowance and can be taken whenever the employee wants a day off, but isn’t sick and isn’t taking annual leave. The employee phones in to advise that they are taking a duvet day and there’s no requirement for them to give any sort of excuse for wanting the day off.

The duvet day apparently originated in 1997. British PR company August. One Communications introduced the duvet day to allow employees ad hoc time off that wasn’t pre-planned. It was then taken up by another PR company, Text 100, and they were the first to gain press coverage about duvet days.

The benefits of having duvet days in your company

The idea behind duvet days is that they can reduce the number of sick days taken, especially those where the employee really isn’t sick, but rather “pulling a sickie”. 

They can be an attractive benefit to employees, so can be added to your company’s benefits package to entice employees to come and work for you. If your industry is particularly competitive, or you suffer from a shortage of certain skills, then this may be just the kind of incentive that will draw potential staff to come and work for you.

They are also said to enhance productivity. That’s because staff feel that they are being treated with respect. They are being allowed to decide if they don’t want to work that day rather than having to call in and pretend to be sick or somehow otherwise justify their need for leave.

Furthermore, duvet days instil a culture of integrity. Instead of calling in and having to make up an excuse for being off, the employee self-designating a duvet day allows them to be decent and honest. Equally, if an employee is simply not in the right frame of mind to come into work, it can be argued that they are better staying off anyway.

Are duvet days always a good idea?

One school of thought holds that the duvet day simply panders to people’s laziness. We all occasionally yearn to just stay in bed, but if we don’t have the luxury of duvet days, then we have to fight those urges and get up and go into work.

The opponents of duvet days believe that they encourage idleness and foster apathy and a lack of fortitude. Some believe they are an easy justification for a previous night’s overindulgence, which in turn makes people less likely to take responsibility for their own actions.

Incorporating duvet days within your business

If you want to add duvet days in your business, then you should include a clause in your employment contracts. Decide on the number of days to give – most companies seem to give two per year – and write this into your contracts. 

You may need to specify times of the year or days of the week when duvet days cannot be taken. Perhaps there are times when the uncertainty of whether or not staff will be in could cause too much disruption to your business. Many companies will disallow duvet days after major sporting events, so that they are not suddenly understaffed.

In many cases though, staff will respect the needs of the business and will exercise common sense in taking duvet days simply because this kind of perk is one that bolsters morale.

We’d recommend also checking out our article giving tips on how to manage with a short-staffed team, to manage around your duvet days without dropping performance.