Excuses, excuses: Google searches for ways to call out sick skyrocketing

NEWCASTLE, United Kingdom — New research into the volume of Google searches for excuses to miss work reveals that searches have risen dramatically over the course of the last two years.

With Fortune recently reporting that The Great Resignation is showing no signs of abating, and in the context of the return to the office, it’s perhaps not too surprising that employees are searching for excuses they can give to skip work in larger and larger numbers. Across the top 10 most popular different search terms, search volume has increased by 630 percent from 2018 to 2022.

Overall, the total number of Google searches Americans are making to find excuses to miss work has soared from 355,890 in 2018 to 3,857,860 in 2022 — a ten-fold increase.

Search Terms Total 2018 Total 2019 Total 2020 Total 2021 Total 2022 Total Searches 2018-2022
calling in sick 59,400 73,200 33,000 261,530 385,780 812,910
best excuses for missing work 34,800 31,300 4,800 459,270 246,500 776,670
excuses to miss work 52,800 52,800 48,800 177,050 219,180 550,630
excuse to miss work 640 0 0 216,080 304,910 521,630
excuses for missing work 3,320 0 0 174,250 241,430 419,000
realistic excuses for missing work 0 0 0 173,910 234,870 408,780
good excuses to miss work 69,600 33,000 0 96,640 147,220 346,460
best excuses to miss work 17,540 31,300 4,800 104,950 153,320 311,910
believable excuses for missing work 5,910 0 0 111,740 168,730 286,380
calling out sick 61,580 19,800 21,000 88,760 128,300 319,440
Cumulative Totals 305,590 241,400 112,400 1,864,180 2,230,240 4,753,810

Presenting new data along with original expert insight, Frank Recruitment Group has collated the 10 most popular Google searches over the five-year period alongside tips on how business can keep their employees meaningfully engaged so that they won’t want to seek excuses to miss work.

“Seeing search volumes jump so drastically across the board in 2021 is definitely interesting. It seems to coincide with the beginning of the return to office which tells us that this hasn’t been the easiest transition for everybody. The important thing, of course, is not to try and ‘go back to normal’ but to go forwards to a healthier tomorrow,” says Frank Recruitment Group President of Americas Rowan O’Grady in a statement.

Discussing the reasons people might be searching for excuses they can give to miss work, wellness coach and organizational development strategist Dr. Shané P. Teran of SP Consulting spoke to the importance of communication and of de-stigmatizing absence in the workplace. She put it that those who are looking for excuses for missing work are likely “feeling that they do not have a supervisor or organization culture in which they can freely take time off without being met with ridicule or challenge.”

“A number of people are not experiencing the grace and understanding from employers that they need; which leads to a resolve of faking it but escaping by any means necessary. People are needing to take more time off in order to manage the long-lasting stressors that come with readjustment,” says Dr. Teran, who also emphasized that the return to offices requires care on the part of employers.

It’s also true that employers are readjusting, often with the result that “workloads are higher, more deadlines are fixed, and the overall culture of self-care is spoken, yet not often enforced and supported”.

So, how can employers keep workers from calling out sick?

Dr. Teran suggests that while many businesses have already taken strides “to create new operating procedures, engagement resources, and redesigned work settings,” the key to long-term, meaningful change is balance.

“Employers must find a balance,” she says, “amongst competing interests – revenue recovery and employee well-being.”

Practical suggestions to move towards this include hiring for more roles where possible so that workloads become more manageable across teams, pursuing digital transformation and automation in order to improve organizational workflow, and ensuring quality management of wellness support schemes. Involving staff in co-design processes for these kinds of measures is particularly worthwhile and effective. If employees can play a part in ideation and even implementation, they’re more likely to feel seen, heard, and therefore engaged.

Methodology:

The search volume data comprising this dataset was collected through initial research using keywordtool.io and corresponds to searches conducted on Google within the US. A longlist of associated search terms was collected, analyzed and organized before further research was conducted via SEMrush to determine monthly search volumes from 2018 to 2022. Data analysis considered monthly, yearly, and cumulative search volume totals.

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