AN old friend of mine, who was no stranger to the Duvet Day, claimed the best way to ring in sick was to smoke a cigarette while lying on your back in bed, with your head hanging upside down off the end. This would create a convincing croaky voice and spluttering cough, apparently.

It seemed a bit too much effort to me. Wouldn’t it just be easier to get out of bed, jump in the shower, and get yourself to work?

We’ve all had mornings when we can’t face the day, and all we want is to crawl back under the covers and shut the world out. But instead, we find the energy to haul ourselves out and get going. Because we’re grown-ups and we have a job to do, and mortgages, loans and bills to pay.

Of course nobody wants to sit with someone coughing and sneezing at work, especially these days, so it’s probably wise to stay off if you’re genuinely under the weather. But we’ve all known those who ‘swing the lead’ from time to time and, according to a National Sickie Day poll, colds, flu and food poisoning are the most popular excuses.

But did you know that in some workplaces it’s perfectly okay to ring up in the morning and announce that you’re taking a Duvet Day? No guilt, no excuses, no hanging off the end of the bed with a smoker’s cough. It seems employers are actually encouraging staff to pull a set number of sickies a year. They’re called ‘wellbeing days’ or ‘doona days’, and employees are allowed several a year, often one each quarter.

Apparently it’s been around in the UK since the 1900s - companies that embrace the concept have even won wellbeing awards.

Well I started my working life in the Nineties and I’d never heard of a ‘doona day’ until recently. If we’re allowed to claim them back, I reckon I’m owed about 120 from the last 30 years...

It all sounds great on paper - who wouldn’t want an extra few days off? - but something about it just doesn’t sit right. I was raised by teachers and it was a very rare day for my mother to allow us a sick day off school - “You’ll feel better once you’re there,” she used to say, and it left a bit of the no-nonsense in me.

So when I think ‘doona day’ I think of those workplaces that have helter skelters and jellybean dispensers, where staff loll on giant beanbags and play Twister. Isn’t allowing staff to pull sickies just mollycoddling? Surely it doesn’t inspire motivation. I know someone who works in a college where students have an appalling attendance rate, and offer very lame excuses. She despairs of them ever adapting to a work environment - but if bosses allow can’t-be-bothered-days off, surely it sends out a message that it’s fine to skive.

Doona days are said to encourage employees to take personal responsibility for their wellbeing, which in turn leads to honesty and trust. For those who have mental health issues, or are finding it difficult to cope at work, it may help to know they can take time off, with no questions asked, and in some cases one day of leave could save a longer period of absence due to stress or anxiety.

And maybe, after a doona day, you’re more likely to be return to work refreshed and enthusiastic.

But if there’s a bigger health issue brewing, due to overwork or other stresses, an occasional day off is probably not going to fix it. And I can’t help thinking that overall, it’s creating a culture of laziness that doesn’t really do anyone any favours.