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Google searches by people looking for excuses to miss work are at a five-year high in the United States, according to the Frank Recruitment Group, which recently looked at search volumes for certain terms from 2018 to 2022.

Across the 10 most popular related search teams, search volume has increased by 630% during that time frame, the company reported in a recent blog post.

For many of those search terms, there was a drop from 2019 to 2020, but for all of them, there was a noticeably large increase in 2021 compared with the previous year, and a continued increase in 2022.

For instance, searches for “calling in sick” went from 59,400 in 2018 to 73,200 in 2019, 33,000 in 2020, 261,530 in 2021 and 385,780 in 2022.

Most of the other searches, for “calling out sick” or variations on “best excuses for missing work,” followed a similar pattern. All of the searches totaled more than 4.7 million cumulatively over the time period studied.

Regarding the big increases from 2020 to 2021, Frank Recruitment Group President of Americas Rowan O’Grady noted that the change seemed to coincide with the beginning of employees who had worked from home returning to the workplace.

For employers looking to make the transition easier for employees, he shared in the blog, “The important thing … is not to try and ‘go back to normal’ but to go forward to a healthier tomorrow.” Even for senior living workers who never had a choice to work remotely, that advice is useful.

Wellness coach and organizational development strategist Shané P. Teran, PhD, of Los Angeles-based SP Consulting called for improving workplace culture so that employees can feel free to take time off without being ridiculed or challenged. “…[T]he overall culture of self-care is spoken, yet not often enforced and supported,” she said in the blog, noting that that pandemic has  been stressful for many employees.

Balance is the key to long-term, meaningful change, according to the blog. That is, employers must find a balance between “competing interests — revenue recovery and employee well-being,” Teran advised.

Ways to achieve this balance, according to the blog, include:

  • Hiring more people, where possible, to make workloads more manageable across teams (admittedly something that might be difficult in senior living, given the workforce challenges that companies are facing);
  • Improving organizational workflow through technology and automation; and
  • Ensuring that wellness support efforts are managed well.

Efforts are more likely to be successful if staff members are involved in their design, the blog noted. Then workers could have more reasons to be excited about going to work rather than spending time searching for words to use to avoid it.

Lois A. Bowers is the editor of McKnight’s Senior Living. Read her other columns here.