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Beautiful weather, more tempted to call in sick?


Andrea Stockton, staff writer
July 25, 2012 — When the warm weather arrives, do you feel more tempted to call in sick and head outdoors? One economics professor says certain weather conditions can draw people away from their desks during the summer months.


Some outdoor activities rely on certain weather conditions to enjoy
Some outdoor activities rely on certain weather conditions to enjoy

As temperatures rise and conditions are clear, some people tend to get a little antsy behind their desk.

Research shows that more people are calling in sick to enjoy time outdoors during the summer months.

"What takes people away from work are certain types of outdoor recreational activities that give them lots of pleasure," says Mikal Skuterud, Associate Professor of Economics at The University of Waterloo. "Things like golf or fishing where you need the right weather conditions to enjoy these activities."

Skuterud has studied numerous activity reports along with a weather quality index, which specifically looks at that kind of weather that is conducive to outdoor activities. He says there are certain weather elements that come together to make people choose to be outdoors as opposed to indoors.

"What we see is that when the weather approaches what we think of as a 'bliss point,' people are more likely to say that they're sick. "

The 'bliss point' is a mathematical formula that gives you the highest possible probability to be outdoors
The 'bliss point' is a mathematical formula that gives you the highest possible probability to be outdoors

The 'bliss point' is a mathematical formula that gives you the highest possible probability to be outdoors engaging in recreational activities.

"The point in that formula that peaks is when conditions are clear with no cloud cover, a humidex of 27.2, and 14.1 km/h wind speed," explains Skuterud.

He looks specifically at non-winter months as the relationship between weather and sickness absenteeism is typically genuine throughout the winter.

"In the winter, we know weather is related to people's actual health in a very specific way."

The study compares unionized to non-unionized workers, salaried workers compared to hourly workers and employees at different points in the business cycle.

"So are you more likely to call in sick in a recession or less likely in a recession? Or an economic boom when it's easier to replace your job if you did get fired?"

According to Skuterud, companies can do a few different things to reduce absenteeism at work throughout the summer:

  • Try to monitor sickness levels better.
  • Increase the penalty if people are clearly found that they were not ill, but missed work.
  • Change how much money people are paid when they are absent from work.

Skuterud's paper, "Reported Sickness Absenteeism and the Weather: A Test of a Shirking Model of Efficiency Wages" is co-authored with Jingye Shi.

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