Workers Using Fewer Sick Days Than Before The Recession: Report

Sick days seem to be a thing of the past -- and the weak economy may be to blame.

In the first three months of 2011, sick days accounted for an average of just 0.7 percent of all scheduled worker days, according to data released this week by Bloomberg BNA. As the Nashville Business Journal points out, that's less than half the rate at which workers were taking sick days in early 2006, before the Great Recession hit.

There's no hard evidence that sick days have fallen as a result of the poor economy, but the Bloomberg BNA report seems to fall in line with a number of other recent developments that suggest the post-recession workforce is overburdened and has little room for rest or error.

As Mother Jones detailed in a series of features last year, American productivity has risen steadily in the past three decades, while wages have barely budged for most workers. A growing number of middle-class and professional employees are working 50-plus hours per week.

And more than half of all Americans failed to use their full allotment of vacation days last year, according to a poll by Harris Interactive -- a phenomenon that some experts attribute to a free-floating anxiety that workers who spend the most time out of the office are the workers apt to get replaced in a competitive job market.

In a 2011 report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States was ranked twenty-third on a list of developed nations for work-life balance.

Meanwhile, in England -- which has an unemployment rate that's roughly the same as that of the the United States -- the number of sick days taken by workers has fallen to an almost 20-year low, fueling speculation that employees are "too scared to take time off," in the words of one professor quoted in the Daily Mail.