Excuses, excuses: Web searches for reasons not to work soar in 2022

American employees scour the Internet for excuses to miss work, just as bosses call them back to their desks.

The total number of Google searches for plausible reasons for skipping school has skyrocketed in the past two years, topping 2 million in 2022, according to analysis by Frank Recruitment Group, a global job placement firm. In 2018, that number was just over 300,000. The company analyzed traffic on 10 of the most popular search terms, including multiple variations of “realistic excuses for missing work.”

Some of the best results? Illness, family or home emergency, doctor’s appointment and car problem.

The increase comes as executives express concern over silent resignations and declining productivity, and rising demands to return to work. Workers in all industries pushed back on RTO mandates, especially in big cities with onerous commutes. A recent analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that Americans collectively save 60 million hours of commute time each day by working from home. Resuming a regular commute to the office means, for many, less sleep and less bandwidth to balance the rest of life’s demands.

“To see search volumes jump so drastically across all fields in 2021 is truly exciting,” Rowan O’Grady, Frank Recruitment Group president for the Americas, said in the report. “It seems to coincide with the beginning of the return to power, which tells us that it has not been the easiest transition for everyone.”

Employees manage the stressors that come with returning to the office in part by taking more time off, Shané Teran, organizational development strategist and president of SP Consulting, said in the report. The data also indicates that making the request is stigmatizing in many workplaces, with many workers feeling uncomfortable asking for a time out outright.

As companies brace for an economic downturn, many have slowed or frozen hiring, leaving staff to do more with less. But Teran said that to reduce absenteeism, it’s essential that employers strike a balance between promoting productivity and supporting employee wellbeing. Last week, the US Surgeon General released a report calling on employers to support the health and well-being of their employees.

Companies around the world are experimenting with four-day work weeks to address these concerns. Productivity held steady or improved in nearly all organizations in a UK trial, while another study found employees gained around an hour of sleep each night with a condensed schedule, probably because their time was overall less constrained.

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