7 Ways to Reduce Sickness Absence in the Workplace
People make businesses what they are. Successful companies value their team as their number one resource, and they’ll stop at nothing to protect and facilitate that resource’s growth. The team’s value means that absence, in turn, becomes critical as soon as it gets out of hand. To make the most of your team and keep your business sustainable, it’s important to understand staff absence in all its forms. For example, learning how to reduce sickness absence helps create a healthy and productive workforce.
Reasons to Reduce Sickness Absence
Beyond the obvious implication of the cost of paying employees who aren’t working, excessive sickness absence triggers a cascade of issues throughout a business. Rafts of employees falling ill and taking sick leave also manifest the symptoms of broader problems with company culture, which business leaders would do well to address.
Employee illness at any level of an organisation can throw important projects off track, disrupting OKRs, compromising targets, and ultimately undermining customer experience. Junior employee absence requires managers to step into the breach and take time away from project management. Leadership absences result in directionless teams, creating conflicts between colleagues.
The Impact on Morale
Sickness absence also interrupts team unity, sowing the seeds for low morale. If you’re an employee and half your team is off sick with legitimate illnesses, you’ll be worried about their health and the toll their work might be taking on it. If you suspect your team might be exaggerating about their illnesses, you’ll start thinking about how disincentivising their job must be to feel the need to ‘pull a sickie’.
Ultimately, low morale prompts your team to start looking for a new job. Reducing sickness absence, therefore, offers an inroad into reducing employee churn. Churn saps resources through the cost of advertising, recruiting, and onboarding new employees, just as it costs resources to bring your team back up to speed after a lengthy sickness absence. Investing in measures to decrease employee illnesses and reduce sickness absences pays off down the line, with happier, healthier teams.
Ways to Reduce Sickness Absence
1. Conduct a Health and Safety Audit
The best way to reduce sickness absence is to learn more about the strengths and weaknesses of your current workplace health and safety procedures. These range between every element of work-life, from how your team sits at their desks, to what they’re eating and drinking, to how they unwind or handle conflict. Spending some time talking to your colleagues, your HR department, or even an outside consultant, can help you understand the causes behind your sickness absences and work to protect your employees.
2. Healthcare Provisions
In modern businesses, the job perks often extend beyond a new computer and a day off on your birthday. Many companies offer incentivising packages designed to boost health as well as productivity. These may include subsidised gym memberships and gym wear and allowances for bicycles with cycle-to-work schemes. Providing financial support to combat work-related health concerns, from eye care to mental health, helps reduce sickness absence, improve your workforce, and win over new recruits.
3. Analyse Staff Behaviour Patterns
Successful businesses often take a digital approach to take care of their employees. In larger companies with multiple departments or smaller businesses strapped for resources, it’s often hard to check in on individual employees and their working habits.
Burnout, overwork, illness, or excessive leave can go unnoticed until they get out of hand and endanger the person’s health. Digitising attendance records with absence management systems removes human error from the situation, allowing managers and business leaders to protect their colleagues and reduce sickness absences.
4. Prioritise Healthy and Ergonomic Equipment
When discussing healthy equipment in a workplace context, we’re not just referring to plans for an office gym. Office and remote workers face hidden hazards in their jobs, from inactivity just as much as activity.
The NHS links the act of excessive sitting over time to diseases as serious as obesity, diabetes, and cancer. Just as healthcare commands a human and a financial incentive for the National Health Service, these two factors should also form a business leader’s top priorities.
Unhealthy desk work is a policy choice. Businesses with head-height screens, wrist support, multiple monitors, standing desks, and regular break policies take care of their employee’s health and reduce sickness absences.
5. Take Steps to Promote a Healthy Lifestyle
Healthy lifestyles create healthy workers, and certain steps help businesses increase their team’s well-being and productivity at a stroke.
We’ve already discussed gyms and cycling, but business leaders constantly find new ways to promote healthy lifestyles with the help of their teams. These include filling canteens, kitchens, and vending machines with healthy options and making them available and affordable compared to their unhealthy counterparts. Active team bonding exercises like sports days, fun runs, or paintballing also help businesses stay fit. Healthy eating and regular exercise options boost morale and reduce sickness absence.
6. Create a Healthy Working Environment
It’s no use implementing a cycle-to-work policy if your car park has no cycle storage or bike locks. Reducing sickness absence is also tough if your employees work in sunless grey bunkers accessible only via elevator. Businesses create healthy working environments when they incorporate healthcare and pastoral support into their team’s DNA, from green spaces to healthcare posters, to fitness equipment. Interestingly enough, businesses can often invest in health-friendly infrastructure tax-free.
7. Create a Collaborative Health Policy to Reduce Sickness Absence
Businesses design health policies to protect their workforce, and it should always feel that way. Enforcing unwanted health practices with an iron fist makes coming to work a chore, and it can also create the very same problems with staff absences that you were trying to avoid in the first place.
Creating collaborative health policies by talking with your team and, more importantly, listening delivers the best results.
Arriving at those discussions with data-led insights you’ve developed from smart systems like absence management software also helps inform effective policymaking. When done right, these policies improve your business and work relationships while reducing sickness absences.