When is Playing Hooky OK?

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Playing hooky. Those are two words that conjure the notion of ditching high school and going to the beach or sneaking away with friends for other adventures. Playing hooky also usually means getting caught and paying the consequences. Does anyone play high school hooky without getting caught?

But what about work? Is it ever OK to play hooky from work? The stakes are a little higher than high school and the consequences could be more severe. And just like high school, chances are you will get caught playing work hooky too. Posting on Facebook or Instagram from the beach on a Tuesday is always a clue. Participating in a conference call with Jimmy Buffet music playing in the background is another big clue. Opinions vary greatly on this hooky workplace dilemma.

Is it ever OK to play hooky at work? Here are just a few questions that may arise: Is it OK to play hooky when your long lost college friend is in town? Is it ok to play hooky when it’s your birthday? Is it OK to play hooky to go shopping after you finish that big project? What about when the new Star Trek movie opens? Is it ever OK?

These are all judgment calls. Maybe yes, maybe no depending on where you work, the nature of your job and the tolerance of your boss.

In some places, attendance is not as important as results. Too bad it’s not that way in all places. These are the places that may not know what hooky is because people come and go and are trusted to do the right thing and get the job done. These are the places where people couldn’t define hooky. In other places, showing up is about all that counts and that means hooky can creep into the culture.

The next time you get the urge to play hooky, include these thoughts in your decision:

  • Working from home is not playing hooky. Of course that assumes you are working.
  • When out of the office, keeping in touch is not the same as keeping tabs. Returning emails and voice mails all day is more like work than hooky.
  • Letting your team down by not showing up when they need you is not hooky – it is desertion. Don’t do it.
  • Sometimes a workday is required to go to the dentist, the DMV, get the dog spayed or do other chores that cannot be done over the weekend. None of this is fun so it’s probably not hooky. It’s life.
  • If you are struggling to create a good excuse for the absence, it’s probably hooky and the excuse better be credible.
  • Sometimes hooky is just plain worth it. Or at least 40,000 people at a time may think so when your beloved baseball team is playing at home in the World Series. Occasionally an event presents itself that makes normal people throw caution to the wind. Doing something that you will always remember might be worth the risk of a little hooky. Just don’t get caught on the Jumbotron.

The bottom line is that if you know your worth to the organization an occasional day off can boost your productivity over the long term, and it’s not hooky. It is clearing the mind for the next surge of adding value.

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