Businesses need to implement ‘Health and Well Being’ strategies and set clear guidelines on remote working to help reduce the rise of sick days in the UK which have risen to its highest level in the last decade. CIPD and Simply Health revealed last week that UK employees were absent on average of 7.8 days over the past year with over 76% reporting stress. Matt Dykes, COO, Abzorb provide some advice on How to Reduce Sick Days and Presenteeism.
A Tough Few Years
This is not surprising as the last few years have been tough due to a myriad of reasons with the global pandemic naturally causing a huge spike in the stats with people suffering from Covid and mental health issues due to lockdown. The cost-of-living crisis, many companies laying off staff and people concerned they will lose their jobs, along with the acceleration of AI spreading fear that more jobs will disappear. Plus, the missing generation who left after Covid and left many companies short of resource. This is lot to take on and has led to people feeling lack lustre, disengaged, stressed, and depressed which of course leads to increased sick days and employees being absent.
Impact on Businesses
The rise in sick days has a profound effect on businesses, lowering productivity because when an employee is off sick their colleague must do their work as well as own or the company must use an external agency which accelerates the cost. Alternatively, if there is no one to replace the employee while they are off sick and the work doesn’t get done, whatever way the company loses money and it is vital that companies implement strategies to manage unplanned sick days.
A new way of working was discovered during the pandemic when 46.6% of people worked from home and companies urgently set up remote workers to avoid any down time. Employees benefited from working at home realising how advantageous it was to their lifestyles then demanded it continued in some form when the world went back to normal. Leading to hybrid working where 28% of employees now work from home and at the office.
Like anything it’s not all good, some of the downsides of working at home is the social isolation and feeling of not being one of the team, finding it hard to be motivated, frustrated by the technology meaning that you cannot perform your job properly.
Another drawback from working at home for some is the rise of ‘presenteeism’, CIPD revealed that 89% of professionals have observed ‘presenteeism’ in their company over the last year with only one third taking action. ‘Digital presenteeism’ is where employees are ‘always on’ with the likes of instant messaging with Slack or Teams and work when they are ill, soldiering through to complete their work demonstrating to their managers how committed they are. Some employees struggle with the boundaries of work and personal life when working at home which of course is not healthy because we all must have a balance of work and life. Plus no one can do their best work when they are ill, and this may lead them to being ill for longer or making mistakes resulting in more sick days and exacerbate the problem. Working from home is a great benefit if you have a bad cold or mild symptoms but when you are properly ill you should not be working.
Health and Well Being Strategy
Companies need to tackle the rise of sick days and the increasing ‘presenteeism’ head on, it has been a tough time for employees and employers need to empower them by trusting them, giving them autonomy, motivating them so people get their mojo back, and making them feel valued and part of a team that makes a difference.
Follow our top tips to reduce sick days and ‘presenteeism’ and increase your employee’s health and well-being.
Tech Makes it Possible
Companies need to ensure that their employees have the latest technology at home so they can do their job as if they were working from the office. The most critical element is the broadband connection it needs to be fast, reliable, and robust. Fibre to the premises provides a high-speed connection resulting in fast download speeds meaning that video and collaboration sessions over the likes of Teams, Google Meet and Zoom will be possible without any buffering or delays.
For employees who live in rural areas and struggle to get a good connection you can supply them SIM cards on their mobile for broadband back up to provide a fast and reliable connection to work off. This will enable them to connect to either 4G or 5G from the three largest providers providing the best connectivity and when the connection is weak with one provider, they can easily move across to another to get an improved connection at no charge. This is all provided on one contract with one bill for your entire team, providing you with a spend management tool to monitor data usage so you can plan accordingly.
Employees need to have a reliable and effective unified communications solution that they can use to host video calls, where they can work on live documents together and collaborate and screen share to connect with each other whether at home or in the office. Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Zoom enable the above integrating with mobile phones securely blending different technologies together to support the business and employees’ needs.
It is important to provide training on any new technology so employees know how to use all the features and functionalities to utilise its capabilities and efficiencies.
By providing the correct technology and training you will reduce stress levels for your employees and sick days so they can work at home and avoid a commute when they have a cold or mild symptoms. It will also add to their work life balance where they can fit in their personal life around work more easily.
Having the right set up for your home office/work space is paramount ensuring employees have the right ergonomic chairs, are sitting correctly at their desk for posture and position of your keyboard and screen to reduce repetitive strain injury (RSI), back and neck pain. Ons survey (2022) revealed that neck and back problems had rose by 62,000 in the last three years.
Trusting Your Employees
Before the pandemic the majority of people didn’t or hadn’t worked from home where as in the tech industry it was common place. So, during lockdown working from home was new for employers and employees and when life got back to normal and people started working from home full time or hybrid working, employers were not sure they wanted to continue this because some believed they did more in the office and questioned whether people were putting in any work at all.
This is a very antiquated view to have, and employers must trust employees to get on with their jobs at home. Trust goes both ways and employees must demonstrate that they are indeed working to their full capacity at home as they would do in an office. However, they should not feel the need to work outside hours and to be always available and on, and especially feel the need to work when sick because they are based at home. Employers can monitor how much work employees are doing using software programmes and by the amount of work is completed and if it gets done. At the same time, they shouldn’t spy on their employees and need to give them enough trust and autonomy to work and get on with it.
This term is often misconstrued as working at home, but flexible working is not working at home, it is about choosing which hours to work in. This is advantageous for parents to help with childcare, or for people to help with aged parents or simply to fit in with leisure activities. If companies have the capacity for this, then again it demonstrates you trust your employees. Some companies have moved to a 4 day week to benefit the health and well-being and because it increases productivity. Cambridge University and Boston University revealed sick days were cut by 65% and turnover reduced by 57% with a 4 day week.
Health and Well Being Culture
By having and advocating a ‘health and well-being’ culture you demonstrate that you put your employees’ needs first. Develop a strategy that empowers and motivates your employees showing them you trust them to work at home and with flexible hours.
Hold workshops, private one to ones, surveys, well-being weeks and different types of methods where employees feel that they can freely communicate their needs and issues with you and you can show them you listen to their feedback and value them.
Implementing a ‘health and well-being’ strategy you will need to include clear and concise guidelines providing clarity is vital to its success, so everyone understands it. Understand if your employees aren’t taking all of their annual leave and ask why not, inform employees to switch off after working hours and not to be digitally available all the times, let them know you don’t expect responses after working hours and not to work if they are ill and don’t feel capable of working.
By setting these guidelines or directives you are re-assuring your employees of your expectations and giving them the confidence that they don’t need to worry about not doing them, therefore adding to stress, and resulting in more sick days and presenteeism.
Health, Happy, Motivated Team
If you put your employees first and demonstrate to them how valued they are, empowering and motivating them, showing you trust them to get on with the job you will reap the rewards with a healthy, happy team who have got their mojo back.
Matt Dykes, COO, Abzorb