“I hate Mondays!”

The shrill sound of “I want to break free’ tore through her slumber like a butcher slamming his knife on the carcass that was once a living soul. Freddie Mercury seemed to understand her plight. She squinted into her phone and snoozed it into silence. The numbers on the clock seem to be racing ahead with Freddie crooning in passion. She growled with annoyance and finally, rubbing her eyes, located her mobile phone and pressed the keys to text. She put the phone on mute, pulled the covers over her head and promptly, went back to sleep. Relieved. The text read, “Very sick, unable to make it to office.”

Yes, it’s Monday Morning.

According to researchers in England, more than a third of all sick days occur on Mondays. In fact, they have a National Sickie Day falling on the first Monday of February every year and it has a large number of people who phone into work claiming to be too ill to get to work. Interestingly, more people call in sick in January than any other month. In the US, according to a 2008 report, over 1.5 million workers, typically call in sick the day after the Super Bowl. There’s data to back that more than 35% of all sick leave, is taken on Mondays. There is no data to support this malaise in India, unfortunately.

How many times have you had Monday Morning blues or Mondayitis in your career? Perhaps, more than you can. I confess, I, too have suffered from at what seems like a zillion time! At work and even on occasions when I had to exercise! However, let me not stray from the focus of this piece, today. Work and Monday Mornings or Mondayitis. So, what makes this demon called Mondayitis freak you out? What makes an employee ‘fall ill’, especially so on a Monday?

  1. Two-day weekends are not enough: Some feel that an added day would be excellent. Because, you had way too much fun over the weekend and you need to recover. Yes, you need that sleep.
    Or, you need an extra day because your weekend passed in a blur with all those chores that ate away into your R&R time or the numerous family visits, tired you out.
  2. You were working through the weekend: With the advent of 24×7 on-call availability thanks to smartphones; gone are the blissful days of cutting off from work during weekends. In India, unlike Europe and the SE Asian countries, it is expected for you to be available even on weekends, a culture spoiled by those over ‘enthusiastic’ pleasers. Therefore, in all probability, you haven’t really had a weekend. So, the desire to call in sick is high as you justify the leave due to lack of rest.
  3. Sporting events/Festivals: This is a sure-shot cause of a Monday absence due to late night celebrations or late matches. There are many an HR story uncovering the truth due to Facebook posts and check-ins and tags by friends
  4. Demotivation: The work you do is not stimulating you anymore or there are challenges you face due to your boss or you have been struggling with the workload or stressful clients. The thought of going back to work after a relaxed weekend is daunting and unhappy.
  5. Laziness: You have a manager who is ‘nice’ so you have gotten used to shirking your workload and passing it on to colleagues who you know can handle it. And, it doesn’t bother you knowing that your job is secure.
  6. Rainy, beautiful weather: Yes this has been one of the triggers during pelting, continuous rainfall or those misty (read smoggy) mornings, according to an HR manager. The pleasure of curling up under the blanket, watching the rain, sipping hot chai and perhaps watching movies lounging in your favourite pajamas is far attractive than the pain of trudging to work.
  7. Stress: You may be overworking under highly demanding conditions so are undergoing more stress and need more rest.

You have a choice. Yet you don’t exercise it or you are choosing momentary pleasure instead of whipping the issue and doing something about it.

Firstly, take a step back and decide what do you want from your job? What is keeping you from doing what you enjoyed when you started here? Be honest – with yourself. Your unauthorised/unplanned absence from work puts the burden of your workload on your co-worker who is stuck covering for you.

It can lead to friction and create a) interpersonal issues b) an annoyed client or co-worker who is taking on the added load on your behalf c) loss in business due to mistakes carried out by the co-worker stepping in. Any of the above is likely to hamper your team dynamics if in excess.

Communicating with your manager is the second step. Sometimes, sharing how you feel can throw up ways to tackle it. And, lastly taking action. For, sooner or  later going by the current job environment, you’ll need to ‘shape up ship out’.

As a Manager, what can you do you manage this universal malaise?

  1. Clarity in the attendance policy is the first step; employees need to be oriented on absenteeism, what the expectations are and what is deemed acceptable.
  2. Track and monitor the absence records, periodically to identify the usual suspects, before it begins to impact the business.
  3. Look for any indications of unhappiness in the employee. There are always signs beyond an absence.
  4. Should you notice a pattern emerging, address the issue with the employee and take proactive steps to resolve it.
  5. Allowing employees the flexibility to work from home can help reduce stress.
  6. Reward Presenteeism with comp-offs, so that employees are provided compensation benefits for the extra working days.
  7. Awareness of sports events, festivals and any other special occasions helps in either announcing those days as offs with a compensatory working day on the subsequent Saturday, is a strategy used by several organisations. Issuing a circular with a subtle warning stating that the quota for all leaves for the said Monday are full is a good deterrent for the errant employee.
  8. Provide a Duvet Day Policy. It means allowing a day’s leave from work that can be taken at short notice with no explanation by the employee. This policy has huge benefits. It respects the employees need to take leave without justifying it with a false and respectable response. In one such company which provides this leave policy, an employee took leave to play a pillow match with his kids. It’s okay. No questions asked, no answers given.

Managing Mondayitis is an important dimension in employee retention and business productivity. With robust policies and progressive discipline strategies in place, you can ensure that the business runs smoothly, prevent low morale and any negative feelings in the team. A word of caution, discernment between the sick leave abusers and the genuine takers is needed.

If one were to ask an entrepreneur about Monday Mornings, they would have completely different view of mornings on Mondays. Ask those who have made that switch. In my opinion, the solution to a Mondayitis is to develop an entrepreneurial outlook at work. Be the CEO of your own job, role, team or function. Work on it as if it’s your own company, display the same level of passion because eventually, it is going to lead you to your purpose. And, watch how the perspectives change.

Attack Mondays with the zeal to push you towards your goal. Break the pattern to make it work for you. Spread the sunshine, sing a song, shake your ass and say, “Bring it on, Monday. I’m oh so ready for you!”

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