Getting Personal

I was recently introduced to the concept of “personal days” as an employment benefit alongside sick days and vacation. Most people have taken a personal day in some form during their career – a day when they had neither scheduled a vacation nor were ill. Sometimes these days are needed to stay home with a sick child; maybe they were used to move houses or deal with some administrative or legal hassle; maybe they were simply to take advantage of the first good day of golf season or to spend some quality time with the DVR.

In any case, in my experience personal days were taken either by being upfront about the need for the day and hoping the supervisor also saw the necessity of the absence or one simply called in sick. The trend these days, however, is to simply allocate a certain number of personal days to each employee that he or she can take as needed.

The biggest advantage to this method is the employee is able to be honest about what he is doing without risking being told that his reason for missing work is not sufficient. It also helps to level the playing field and avoid situations where, for example, Bob is resentful because his request to take a day off to play golf was denied but Shirley’s request to stay home because her son has the flu is granted. Different supervisors and different work cultures have different values so is it really fair to leave these things up to discretion?

At the same time, this scheme seems to encourage a certain amount of self-centeredness that could cause other cultural problems in the workplace. There will always be people who will put their own needs in front of the needs of the group and always be those who pick up the slack. Having “no questions asked” personal days allow members of that first group to opt out and members of the latter group to make up the difference. Presumably there are some rules preventing people from taking these days when their presence is essential but these absence could still create significant inconvenience.

  • What is the policy for personal days where you work?
  • Is it done at the manager’s discretion or do you have a set number you can take every year?
  • Do you think the system you have in place is effective for your workplace culture?

Leave a Reply