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Calling In Sick This Summer? Make It Food Poisoning

Wednesday, 25 Jul 2012 | 4:17 PM ET

Is it me or does this summertime weather make you feel like calling in sick?

Bill Hollden | Cultura | Getty Images

Outside of the wintertime — right after the holidays when everyone needs a break — summer is the time that “fake sick days” go up the most.

Nearly 20 percent of workers admitted they call in sick at least once per summer just to “enjoy the beautiful summer weather,” according to a recent survey by Monster.com .

And those are just the ones who admitted it — to a job-finder web site!

“Maybe for some people, the temptation is just too much!” said Steve Langerud, director of professional opportunities at DePauw University and a workplace consultant . “There’s an art festival or something going on, or maybe people just want to go to the beach or have a project to do at home.”

Langerud, who does not endorse the fake sick day, cautions that doing so is a LOT riskier in summer than in winter. The reason? In the winter, you’re more likely to be fed up with cold, messy weather and want to take the day off to watch TV, sleep or read a book. The chances of someone snapping a photo of you doing any of those things and uploading to Facebook is much smaller than it is if, say, you’re at the beach or a street festival.

One quick snap, upload and tag is all it takes and you’re busted!

Though you’re probably even more likely to bust yourself — accidentally telling your co-workers what a great time you had at the ball game or the beach and then someone asks, “Wait, what day did you do that?”

Langerud said he thinks fake calling in sick is a lot less common than you think. But a survey a few years ago from workforce-management firm Kronos found that 57 percent of salaried employees said they would take a sick day even if they weren’t sick!

For sure, there’s an art to the phony sick day. First, you don’t do something like a cold because you’ll be expected to have a cough when you return to the office the next day. Some of the favorites include food poisoning, migraine or sinus headaches and back pain or other bodily injuries you might have sustained doing work in the backyard. None of those requires you to prove anything upon your return. And, in the case of food poisoning, no one is going to want to be around you, so they may even encourage you to stay home!

Rodney Southern, a freelance writer and former manager, offers a few additional sicknesses that seem “ legitimate and not measurable ”:

  • Conjunctivitis.This one is easily faked, Southern says: a strong onion, a rubbing of the eyes and some petroleum jelly will “bring this little bugger to life!”
  • Blinding headaches.Unless you’ve got the “Being John Malkovich” syndrome, no one can get in your head and find out if you have a headache. Should be reserved for people who actually get migraines, though.
  • Dizziness.“Calling this ‘vertigo’ will give it validity!’” Southern said.
  • Gas or the trots.These are likely to work with few follow-up questions, but Southern has one simple piece of advice before using these: “Think it over.”

Now, before you go yelling BUSTED! on your co-workers who call in sick during the summer, Langerud cautions that with many of those excuses, there’s a 50-50 chance it’s true.

Something like a cold or sunburn you can’t fake. But with food poisoning, there are a lot of festivals, picnics, work events, county fairs, state fairs and other events where people eat all kinds of crazy things, so your chances of getting food poisoning probably go up in the summer.

And, with back pain, a pulled hamstring or other bodily injury, those are also more likely during the summer given that many people ARE doing more physical work in the yard and around the house and chances are many were idle through the winter, increasing the likelihood of injury.

And, while most bosses know that fake sick days happen and they know that there’s probably a chance they’ll increase by 20 percent or so during the winter and summer, that doesn’t mean they’re tolerant of fake sick days.

“I think most bosses are fairly intolerant,” Langerud said. “They expect people to come to work and would much rather have someone ask for flexible time than lie to them.”

And once you’ve broken the boss’s trust, Langerud said, it’s hard to win it back.

And aside from that, Southern points out, remember that you are tangling with karma.

At some point, you have to ask yourself, is that beach day really worth tempting karma into coming back to bite you?

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Cindy Perman
Cindy PermanCNBC.com Commentary Editor

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