How to reduce absenteeism in the workplace
How to reduce absenteeism in the workplace
While it is generally expected that employees will need to take an occasional sick day, routine absenteeism is a different matter entirely, and can have a devastating impact on the finances, productivity and morale of an organisation.
ABSENTEEISM IN THE WORKPLACE
In 2018, an estimated 141.4 million working days were lost because of sickness or injury in the UK in 2018/2019 – the equivalent to 4.4 days per worker– with higher levels reported amongst women, older workers, people with chronic health conditions, part-time workers and those working in larger organisations.
Although absenteeism is more prevalent amongst certain industries and age groups, the reasons for not turning up to work are much more complex than having a routine common cold. For while some 34.3 million days per year in 2018 were attributed to these types of minor illnesses – closely followed by musculoskeletal problems and ‘other’ conditions including accidents and diabetes – 57% of all working days lost to ill health in 2018 were due to stress and anxiety, with some 12.8 million of those work-related.
Given that workload pressures, bullying, excessive responsibility and a lack of managerial support are just some of the main factors cited as causing absenteeism, improving employee health and wellbeing certainly lies within an organisation’s control. However, it’s not just about monitoring employee attendance and providing antibacterial hand–wash in bathrooms to help prevent the spread of germs. Taking early and sustained action to tackle the psychological and physiological complexity surrounding any issues of absenteeism is essential. Whether dealing with short-term sickness or long-term health issues, here are some effective ways that organisations can play their part in reducing absenteeism.
REGULAR HEALTH SCREENINGS
Organisations can identify and mitigate areas of risk if they conduct regular health checks to properly gauge the overall health of the workforce and use accurate, actionable data to tailor their health and wellbeing policies and services accordingly. From checking BMI and blood pressure to cholesterol and blood sugar, the more employees learn about their own general health, the more they can understand the root causes of potential illness.
AN EFFECTIVE WELLBEING PROGRAMME
The physical and mental factors that bear a direct correlation to absenteeism as broad as they are interrelated. That’s why it’s so important that organisations adopt a holistic approach towards health and wellbeing, with the support of relevant expertise and innovative technology. One way of doing this is to provide employees with digital or onsite access (or a combination of both) to a comprehensive workplace wellbeing strategy, inclusive of an Employee Assistance Programme, that has the breadth of wellbeing activity, information, advice, counselling and 24/7 support needed to help employees take proportionate steps to overcome mental and physical health challenges, whether they are at work or already off sick.
MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT
We may be living in an always on culture dominated by stress and anxiety, but mental health is still not prioritised in the same way as physical health, with only one in ten organisations having a standalone mental health policy for employees. If organisations want to reduce anxiety in the workplace, as part of their workplace wellbeing programme, they should have onsite mental health seminars, training workshops and consultation clinics delivered by qualified mental health professionals. This support not only enables employees to overcome their mental health difficulties and prevent any problems from escalating, it removes the stigma around the subject, which bodes well for effectively managing it on a day-to-day basis.
Unfortunately, musculoskeletal issues such as back pain and neck and upper limb problems also compromise general health and wellbeing – often to the detriment of being able to work. That’s why organisations should use their workplace wellbeing programme to promote awareness of the importance of good posture and physiotherapy. Furthermore, group seminars, classes or one-to-one consultations should be delivered by qualified and vetted physiotherapists within working hours, so that initial ailments are treated before they become chronic, stressful and above all, time consuming.
A POSITIVE WORK ENVIRONMENT
Ultimately, if organisations want to reduce absenteeism amongst their workforce, they have a responsibility to create a supportive and inclusive work culture that actively champions health and wellbeing. Providing such wellbeing support goes a long way to achieving optimum employee engagement, but so too does taking simple actions like challenging long-established habits of presenteeism, as it indirectly promotes personal growth, social relationships and the work-life balance in the process.
Injuries, illness and medical appointments are inevitable, but that doesn’t mean the ambition of reducing absenteeism through taking positive wellbeing action isn’t worth striving for. At the very least, delivering excellent workplace wellbeing will mean fewer employees phoning in sick to attend a job interview.