Allowing employees time off to deal with personal and health-related matters is simply good business practice. After all, we're only human...
Occasionally situations will arise at home - sad and happy events will require time away from work, and sometimes, sickness may veer its ugly head. How a business handles absence leave is a reflection of the company's culture, and it can significantly influence the morale and productivity of its employees.
Some reports show that worklessness and sickness absence cost the UK around £100bn annually, indicating that both the public and private sector are vulnerable to the issue, with 30% of companies reporting non-genuine absence as a top cause for short-term absence in some industries.
It's becoming increasingly important to implement strategies that support businesses and employees in managing and resolving the underlying issues that prompt unscheduled absences, in particular. Your attendance and absence policy is a great starting point.
Once you have this carved out, you can start to look at ways of enhancing your staff's wellbeing, improving job satisfaction levels, and building better relationships with employees. Investing in such initiatives will not only strengthen your workers' loyalty towards the company, but it will also result in improved engagement and productivity.
To help you get started, we've highlighted the key absence management methods you should consider applying.
1. COLLECT THE DATA
Management teams may struggle to get cooperation from employees when it comes to absence if they've based their policies and expectations on generic or outdated information. Remember, every business and industry is unique. What matters to one set of people, may not necessarily be high on the list of priorities for others. What's more, each organisation has its own internal dynamics that may be affecting how workers engage and respond to the company's requests and procedures.
Since many factors could be impacting absence levels in the workplace, it's essential to gain insight into how your employees are really feeling. Conducting an anonymous Employee Satisfaction Survey, will give you the quantifiable data you need to make effective decisions for your business.
Is your team stressed? Do they feel well equipped to perform their daily tasks? Is there a case of bullying in the organisation?
Your survey could uncover small and easily fixable issues, or it could reveal the big elephant in the room that was perhaps invisible to higher levels of management. Whatever the outcome, you'll have a clearer view of what's behind the absences and take the necessary steps to turn things around.
2. CONDUCT 'RETURN TO WORK' INTERVIEWS
Returning to work can be overwhelming for an employee.
Depending on the reason for their absence, all kinds of concerns and emotions may be stirred up. Taking an empathetic and humane approach to welcoming a staff member back on board will help them to readjust into a normal routine and prevent further absence if, for example, the underlying cause was related to stress and burnout.
Return to work interviews are also a good way of discouraging non-genuine absences; as a well-known part of your company policy, employees who may be tempted to take advantage of any leniencies will be deterred by the prospect of having to give a dubious explanation to their line manager. These interviews will also give you further insight into what's causing the absence and help you to tackle the issue head-on.
3. OFFER FLEXIBLE WORKING HOURS
Your employees will have private, multifaceted lives that require their time and attention, too. Home, family, and care responsibilities come out as one of the top reasons for short-term absence.
Understandably, it can be challenging to compartmentalise priorities when juggling personal and work obligations. This can affect an employees ability to concentrate at work, forcing them to take work home. It's a vicious feedback loop that can eventually spiral out of control. Studies have found that overworked employees are likely to suffer from stress which manifests in health problems such as impaired sleep, depression, heavy drinking, diabetes, impaired memory, and heart disease. Naturally, this is not only detrimental to the wellbeing of your staff, but the resulting absenteeism and decline in productivity will significantly affect your bottom line.
Reviewing your employees' schedule and adjusting their hours (or allowing them to work from home) can have a powerful effect on morale and wellbeing. Reduced commuting, more control over their working environment, and a schedule that suits their energy cycles will help your employees see to medical appointments, handle their personal admin, and spend more time with their families.
According to the CIPD, flexible working arrangements may reduce non-genuine absences. Research also shows that when it comes to job perks, 50% of employees would prefer flexible working hours over unlimited annual leave or free childcare - proving to be a much more cost-effective benefit for companies to make available.
4. PROMOTE HEALTHY HABITS
Employee wellbeing isn't something that companies can afford to put on the back burner. Showing commitment to supporting not only physical but also mental wellbeing is essential for retention, and a massive drawcard for new talent.
Knowledge-based and manual jobs can often result in long hours spent in sedentary positions, causing repetitive strain injuries and back pain. Many of these work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMSDs) are preventable, and the consequent absenteeism can be reduced when organisations provide the correct equipment and training for occupational health best-practice.
We've said it before: prevention is better than cure.
Understanding what's causing stress and recognising the signs can help your managers to reach out to employees with the right support. Sodexo's Employee Assistance Programme allows workers to find a safe space to talk and take advantage of essential resources for mental health support.
Additionally, you can also offer gym memberships and rewards that encourage and promote healthy behaviours. On a basic level, you can make sure that your office has sufficient light and ventilation, that water and healthy snacks are made available, and that regular movement and breaks are encouraged.
TAKING THE NEXT STEP...
All of these steps will contribute to improving how employees feel about themselves mentally and physically. They will also feel supported and engaged with your company, knowing that their needs are prioritised and that they are not viewed as a replaceable number on the payroll.
Ultimately, your absence policy and the strategy you take to implement it must align with your business goals and values. Essentially, it's the human element that makes your organisation tick. Taking care of their needs and understanding what engages and motivates them to achieve excellence will help you to shape your strategies and take practical steps to create a happy and healthy workplace culture.
Get started by downloading our free Employee Satisfaction Survey and get to the core of what matters to your people.