Some people hear “sickie” or “duvet day” and think: out-and-out deceit. But duvet days are not about completely feigning illness, which would result in guilt, therefore rendering the day unenjoyable.
Sickies are when one really is sick, but, y’know, probably not to the extent that merits a day off. It’s the exaggerated head cold. It’s the sore throat overdramatised by a theatrical croak. It is the hangover one convinces oneself could be – it’s not impossible – the start of the flu (the 10 wines drunk the previous evening were coincidental).
For the most part, I loved school. But this didn’t stop me also loving duvet days. Every kid knows the tricks used to hoodwink parents. Holding a thermometer to a radiator. Lowering one’s voice to barely a whisper; a husk. A shadow of one’s former self. The back of the hand held to the forehead like a Jane Austen character. All the while, thoughts firmly on the prize of a day on the sofa watching cartoons.
I still remember the pyrrhic victory of being allowed to stay at home – but then my mother also staying home. Which really made the entire enterprise pointless. Parents instinctively know this, and it often leads to backtracking.
In the adult world, sick days cost the economy millions through decreases in productivity. Mondays are when most are taken, and there is even a national sickie day (but then, isn’t there a national day for everything?) which is the first Monday in February – employers are braced for sudden, suspect maladies. No colleague will thank a habitual sickie-thrower, piling up the work for everyone else, but it’s also true that as soon as someone is slightly ill, I would rather they were at home and not coughing germs over me.
The sickie is not the same since Covid, when so many have been genuinely, horrifically ill. Duvet days don’t offer the same pleasurable respite when they stretch out for weeks, are not by choice, and everyone knows that to still have a job is a luxury.
I don’t know when things will return to normal, or whether the level of in-office working will remain the same. But I’m one of the people who thinks (and it isn’t a unanimous opinion) that in time things will slide back to how they always were. Which means that in the not-too-distant future, people everywhere will be snuggling down and firing up Netflix. I don’t condone it. But I’m also not judging.