Barefoot BWF Pic Guy on BeachToday it seems like there is an epidemic of employee’s calling in “sick” when they really just don’t want to go to work. Does the problem really lie solely with them, or can we as employers do something to improve the situation? To understand what’s really going on, take a good look at your workplace. Your environment, communication, and working conditions can be important contributing factors to bogus “sick” call-ins.

Some folks are simply sick of their job. They feel unappreciated, bored, and ignored. They think their job isn’t going anywhere, and they don’t see how they make a difference in the big scheme of things. In other words, they are disengaged from work and it doesn’t mean much more than a paycheck. So, why not take the day off or stay out too late the night before?

If you want to change their attitude, you have to change your ways. Here are five things we advise our clients today that we did building the Barefoot brand that practically eliminated phony sick calls:

  1. Build Team Spirit. Put your people on the same team with clear annual, quarterly, and monthly goals that break right down to their job. Spend more time in orientation.  Show them graphically that the money for their salaries, bonuses, vacations. and benefits come ultimately, from the customer. Share your challenges with them and ask for their ideas. Write memos to the entire staff on anniversaries touting each employee’s accomplishments for the past year and how their work improved everybody’s security and advancement. Have out-of-the-office events. Have fun with titles and don’t take yourself too seriously.
  2. Create a Supportive Environment. Make sure the lighting is full spectrum “sunlight” and where possible, have plenty of natural light. Insure climate control is right for every work area. Invest in the most healthful office furnishings, such as ergonomic furniture that reduces fatigue. Choose colors that support the moods conducive to their type of work. Eliminate frustration with equipment by having an on-staff IT person who can “fix anything.” Provide adequate parking and security. Be sensitive to the design of work spaces whether it be private offices or open areas where your people work together.
  3. Give Time Off. To reduce phony sick call-ins, give your people more time off! But do it in a strategic way that makes it more valuable. There are three months in the year that don’t have legal holidays: June, August, and March or April, depending on when Easter falls. In those months, give them a Friday off, but choose the one that is equidistant between the two nearest bank holidays. Give it a fun name (we called ours “Barefoot Days”). Then, give them a day off for their birthday. Lastly, give them all the time between holidays and the weekends off. You will be surprised at how your production increases!  Suddenly, there’s no more long hauls without a break resulting in a predictable cadence to their work periods.
  4. Pay for Performance. Many employees feel that they are paid unfairly because they make the same as those who are less productive. That’s because most compensation plans are based on hourly pay, which is paying for attendance, so folks “attend” work. They don’t necessarily contribute, improve, or add to the bottom line. When you are paying for performance with a performance bonus, the producers can’t afford to leave and the non-producers can afford to stay.
  5. A Greater Good. Your company must stand for something greater than your product or service. Take on a cause that resonates with your business and makes the world a better place. Make sure your own backyard is environmentally and socially positive. Involve your people in events your company supports that improve your community and our planet. Folks want to be proud of where they work and receive validation from their friends and family.

Of course, there is real illness and responsible people won’t spread it at work. But when your people feel like their job is exciting, rewarding, and important to the team, they won’t have a desire to call in “sick” because work will be so exciting, rewarding, and even fun!


Who We Are

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey Barefoot Wine Founders

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.

Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.

They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) to help entrepreneurs become successful. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.

Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular brand building site at

To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact