Most current leave policies reward sickness instead of health. At many organizations, such as school districts, teachers must pay to get a personal day off to do things such as a function they want to attend with their child or spouse. However, if they want a day off with full pay, they need to be sick. In this way, the system rewards those who get sick yet charges others who want to do things that contribute to their life and the well-being of themselves and family members or friends. Does that make sense?
A better solution would be to have general leave days. Most all working professionals are given a certain number of sick days – and they should because things happen. What if instead of giving a number of days for sick leave, they instead have a number of general leave days. This way, people can then use those days for functions they feel are important for their life and well-being. Many studies document the benefits of having control over schedules and life and how they benefit health and productivity. Also, if they do get sick, which does happen, those general leave days can be used. If a person is sick often, this then limits days they can then use for personal matters. In this way, it rewards healthy employee’s with greater freedom over their schedule and actually encourages and rewards those who work at being and improving their health.
Beyond the value of more freedom and control to healthier employee’s, there are several advantages to a General Leave policy rather than the traditional sick day system.
1. Employees are more likely to plan for absences instead of taking off at the last minute. This means employees will make adjustments so their work gets covered, negating any possible drop in productivity.
2. A general leave policy shows employees the organization cares about them and wants to support them. As research has clearly shown, when employers care about the employee’s, employee’s reciprocate by doing better work for that organization. Higher productivity has been attributed to employee’s who care more about their job and their employer.
3. General Leave policies reward and encourage health while making sickness less accommodating thus encouraging employee’s to engage in health promoting actions to make sickness less likely.
4. External incentives are generally bad because they destroy intrinsic motivation but policies that incentivize desired behaviors actually build intrinsic motivation while creating a culture that nurtures health.
**Of note, with this policy it is vital organizations also provide a health promoting culture and programs to make it easy for employee’s to engage in health promoting actions. Without creating a health promoting culture, these policies can be seen as manipulative instead of supportive.
Please share your thoughts as to how we can continue to create interactions so everyone and everything benefits.