Caught! Remote employees reveal their top excuses for not working

It's important to practice healthy work-life balance, yet some employees may be taking it to the extreme. 

A recent survey by workforce management platform WorkYard rounded up the most common excuses employees use to avoid doing work. Technical difficulties topped the list, as shaky internet connectivity was the most common excuse used by remote workers. Illness, at-home distractions and communication misunderstandings were named as other frequent issues, the survey found. 

Read more: Are inefficient tech tools causing your employees to 'sleepwork'? 

As employees have adapted to remote work arrangements, studies have found that workers are actually putting more time and effort into their work: 70% of employees who work from home say they work on the weekends, and 45% work longer hours than before the pandemic, according to a survey by staffing firm Robert Half. Overall, 90% of employees consider themselves more productive when working from home, data from Microsoft found. 

Yet that doesn't stop some people from finding ways to shirk their professional responsibilities. Beyond the most common excuses shared, WorkYard noted a few more "out-there" excuses, like, "I accidentally spilled hot sauce on my laptop, and now it's not working." Another employee anonymously shared that "My aura is out of balance and I need to perform a series of rituals to realign my energy," for why their work was left undone. 

Read more: Employees' mental health suffers when managers try to be therapists

To encourage positive work habits and improve trust, employers should set clear expectations and boundaries around when work tasks are due. And if technical challenges are still an issue nearly three years into remote work, it could be time to review which programs are available and adjust accordingly, says Nic De Bonis, a spokesperson from WorkYard. 

"Investing in the right technology and infrastructure, providing clear expectations, and regular communication can help to optimize remote work, improve employee engagement, and maximize productivity," De Bonis says. "The lack of productivity resulting from remote work excuses may translate to lost revenues and decreased profitability." 

Check out the most common excuses employees use for avoiding their to-do list: 

Technical difficulties

Thirty-two percent of employees say internet connectivity issues and other online issues are common reasons they cannot do their work. Power outages and even being the victim of cybersecurity threats were shared in the survey. 

Family or personal emergencies

Eighteen percent of employees say they use excuses like a sick family member to avoid their work. Personal emergencies like plumbing issues and other "urgent" home repairs also made the list. 


Remote work hasn't prevented employees from taking their sick days, as 15% of respondents told WorkYard they've used the cold, flu and other ailments as an excuse to skip work.


Employees have claimed time zone differences, calendar confusion and other misunderstandings for reasons why they've missed meetings or deadlines. Thirteen percent of employees relied on this excuse, WorkYard found.

Distractions and interruptions

While remote work has blurred the line between work and home, it's also given some workers a good excuse — 12% of employees blame their families, kids, neighbors and pets for distracting them from work. 

Other work obligations

Ten percent of employees say other work is preventing them from doing the task at hand. Attending other virtual meetings or completing urgent work tasks were common reasons given, according to WorkYard.