Workplace absences and absence management
Employee absence, whether lasting for a day, a week, or a month, can be stressful for everyone involved. The employee can be anxious about a drop in their earnings and not meeting their deadlines, their team must fill in for their colleague, thus dealing with an increased workload. The employer can be concerned for the deadlines, their employee’s wellbeing, and filling in the space left by their absence. Thus, absence management plays a key role in keeping a business productive, stress-free, and happy workplace.
Absences can be caused by a number of factors such as minor and major health problems (both physical and mental), family issues, commuting issues, and problems with colleagues or workplace culture.
In 2021 sickness absence in the UK rose to 2.2%, amounting to almost 150 million lost working days.
Did you know?
The top 4 reasons for sickness absence in the UK are:
- minor illnesses (21.9%), such as the flu
- musculoskeletal problems (13.4%), including lower back pain and osteoarthritis
- mental health conditions (9.8%)
- and ‘other’ (26.9%), encompassing Covid-19, accidents, and diabetes among others
Minor illnesses are unpredictable and costly to the business, which makes them harder to manage. Day One absence management is one of the most effective strategies a business can implement to ensure workers return to work healthy and as soon as possible. Day One absence management is designed to work from the moment the sickness absence begins to ensure the employee is supported throughout and can return to work as soon as possible. From the moment the worker places a call to our dedicated call centre to notify us of the absence and the surrounding circumstances, we will start the process of notifying the appropriate management staff at the company and compiling appropriate advice and return-to-work plans, setting a date for their return and referring the individual to occupational health, if appropriate. A return-to-work interview will be scheduled if needed, and managers will receive updates and reminders for every stage of the process.
Musculoskeletal issues are prevalent in people involved in manual work. Ergonomic implementations and well-constructed and communicated health and safety procedures are the best tools to protect your employees from this type of problems. Identifying these early via a health surveillance programme can help. A health surveillance programme is concerned with regular health checks for employees to ensure they are happy and healthy and to proactively identify any health issues. This can help prevent sickness absences, workplace injuries, the development of chronic health conditions, and can assist in putting together or updating health and safety guidelines.
As part of the absence management efforts, to reduce the impact of mental health conditions, companies should ensure they’re doing everything they can to limit the stress their employees come under and provide the appropriate resources to deal with any difficulties that arise, such as counselling, self-help guides, and mindfulness tools.
Problems at home
If an employee is dealing with family issues, they might become withdrawn and experience a drop in productivity. It can also lead to increased levels of stress and cause or worsen mental health issues.
Family issues can fall into 2 categories – immediate and persistent. The former might include an urgent issue with a child’s school or a household emergency such as a leak. The latter are likely to have a more substantial effect on the employee and their presence in the workplace – those include a complicated divorce, family member illness, or lack of childcare support.
To help your employees deal with their immediate issues, it is important to consider flexible working opportunities, such as calling in the morning to work from home, or being able to leave, where possible, during the working day, and compensate at a later time or date.
For persistent issues, it is recommended to have a wellbeing strategy in place that is equipped to support the employees in need. It might include counselling to support their mental health and allow them to talk their problems through. Flexible working opportunities can also be helpful in allowing them to take care of their responsibilities at home and remain productive in the workplace. Mental Health First Aid courses are recommended to ensure your colleagues, managers, and team members can also provide some support and are equipped to address a crisis if the need arises.
Commuting to work can present a number of issues depending on the mode of transport. Those who travel by car are likely to have fewer issues travelling, although car trouble, construction, and strikes can have a significant impact on the ease of travel. Others, however, have been shown to experience the repercussions of a stressful commute on their health, wellbeing, and happiness.
Cycling and walking
Cyclists and those travelling on foot are most likely to be impacted by adverse weather conditions. Apart from the unpleasantness of the commute in downpour, snow, hail, or freezing temperatures presents, it can have substantial negative consequences for the worker’s health, thus increasing the number of sick days they would have to take. In addition, cycling in these conditions can increase the already high risk of injuries, further impacting the employee’s health and ability to work.
Offering the opportunity to work from home on those days may help prevent unnecessary injuries and allow your employees to remain happy and healthy.
Travelling by public transport has perhaps the highest number of factors that can potentially negatively affect the commute. From strikes and delays to bad weather and route changes, your employees might struggle to make it on time.
While there is not much an employer can do to prevent this from happening, offering work from home opportunities and allowing the workers a touch of flexibility where possible – for example, in case of a delay the opportunity of a 9:30am to 5:30pm workday instead of the usual 9-5 – can help limit their stress and allow them to remain productive.
The office environment can present problems in a number of ways such as bullying, social exclusion, issues with the team or the management, or a toxic culture. All of those can have a significant impact on the employees’ mental health and stress levels and can cause them to withdraw and lose motivation to come into work, thus requesting more and more work from home days or taking sick leave and holidays.
To prevent and mitigate such issues, it is essential to have appropriate processes in place. This includes grievance procedures that are available and made known, to ensure if anyone is experiencing workplace bullying or harassment it can be dealt with swiftly and appropriately. Counselling services can help deal with such issues as social exclusion or not getting along with one’s team. Organising check-in meetings to talk with your employees openly about the culture in the workplace and how it can be improved can have a considerable positive impact on the culture and workers’ happiness. Providing Mental Health First Aid training courses can also reduce the negative tensions in the workplace and allow your employees to better support each other and identify those in need.
To learn more about preventing absences and ensuring your employees are always at their best, visit our website and contact us if you have any questions.