Doctor’s Notes and a broken system

We recently had a news items here is Manitoba where an NDP member of the Legislature introduced a private members bill to remove the stipulation to require a Doctor’s note until you have been away for greater than 6 days. Seemed to me like a totally reasonable request. It also occurred to me how broken the system must be if someone thought getting a Doctor’s note was a good solution initially.

It appears that the Doctor’s notes were required to try to address unwarranted absenteeism. The problem with this policy is twofold:

  1. By forcing potentially sick employees outside and into a Doctor’s office you are potentially increasing the severity of their sickness and increasing the chance they will infect others.
  2. If they are unable to acquire a sick note because they lack a family doctor or have had too many sick notes, they will probably come to work and make more people sick. This in turn will result in point number 1. 🙂

Ultimately at the end of the day, you will need to trust your employees. If they are not engaged they possibly could take unwarranted sick days that could impact the business. But you know what? That impact would be minor to the impact to the business when they ARE at worked and not engaged. They could waste more time than during their unwarranted sick days. (especially when you factor in other employees they are also distracting)

When you are thinking about designing solutions to the problems, ensure you are treating the problem and not just the symptom. In this case, playing hooky is not the problem. It is just a symptom of being not engaged and not feeling valued.

BTW, increasing the procedure to only require notes over 6 days isn’t fixing things either. Spend the effort to talk to people and understand what they would like to do at work. What makes them feel like they aren’t working? What gives them a sense of satisfaction? What makes the day fly by for them?

How would they recommend getting employees more engaged?

You might be surprised at the answers you get. At the very least, just asking the question increases their engagement and probably starts the process to reducing absenteeism.


Author: Terry Bunio

Terry Bunio is passionate about his work as the Manager of the Project Management Office at the University of Manitoba. Terry oversees the governance on Information Technology projects to make sure the most important projects are being worked on in a consistent and effective way. Terry also provides leadership on the customized Project Methodology that is followed. The Project Methodology is a equal mix of Prince2, Agile, Traditional, and Business Value. Terry strives to bring Brutal Visibility, Eliminating Information islands, Right Sizing Documentation, Promoting Collaboration and Role-Based Non-Consensus, and short Feedback Loops to Minimize Inventory to the Agile Project Management Office. As a fan of pragmatic Agile, Terry always tries to determine if we can deliver value as soon as possible through iterations. As a practical Project Manager, Terry is known to challenge assumptions and strive to strike the balance between the theoretical and real world approaches for both Traditional and Agile approaches. Terry is a fan of AWE (Agile With Estimates), the Green Bay Packers, Winnipeg Jets, and asking why?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: