Absence Series Part 3: Reasons for it and how to create a healthy culture

March 26, 2018

‘Minor illness remains the top cause of short-term absence for most organisations. Stress and acute medical conditions are most commonly responsible for long-term absence’. Here’s Tim part 3 of our Absence Series.

By Tim Frear

How do we tackle the minor illness short term absences? Is offering a flu vaccination the only thing we can offer or is there a new way of thinking? We are all human and our bodies will break now and again, but what are the preventatives?

I go to some of my client’s offices and they have colourful, quiet break out areas, some have pool tables and communal eating and socialising spaces. Google have free healthy and gourmet meals, laundry and fitness facilities along with ‘nap pods’ for when you need that power nap.

Could this be the answer to short term illnesses or is there something else out there? Possibly an office that filters the air thus producing exactly the right amount of oxygen for a healthy focused mind. We can look at the successes of companies like Google and their innovative approaches to employee wellbeing or we can be the innovators of the future!

As a country we can at times be slow at changing policies, benefits and working conditions to assist the changing workforce. We must look at our counterparts in the large companies, such as Google, to make the changes. It’s only now becoming more prevalent though open communication, the media and dare I say, celebrity endorsements that mental health is being addressed.

We all grew up knowing that a bad back was the most common reason for long term sickness. Over the years this has changed to stress, depression and other mental health conditions. As this is becoming more prevalent, companies are now enhancing awareness of mental health issues in the workplace through new policies, better employee assistance programs and additional counselling where needed. ACAS estimates that one in four people will experience mental illness within their lives.

A third of organisations have a policy that covers mental health and a further 12% report they are in the process of developing one.

How to reduce levels of long-term absence.

I believe the first steps would be having effective and appropriate policies, accompanied by all-round education of team leaders and managers on how to identify and manage mental health in the workplace. Some people will not speak up, but ensuring employees know where to reach out to to receive effective and timely support is crucial.

We need to be proactive in considering what factors could cause ill-health, regularly review our jobs and how much we are putting on our people. Ensuring we are complying with the working time directive and encouraging employees to take their holidays for recharging their batteries is also key.

We must not forget to review the root cause of stress within the workplace.

What is the bullying and harassment culture in your organisation? Can your people speak up when there is an issue without the fear of retribution? When you receive complaints how are they dealt with? How quickly are they dealt with? These factors will all will affect the overall impression and culture of the organisation.

There is no steadfast rule on what a company should be providing but I do believe we are heading in the right direction, however, there is still a way to go to be employers of the future!

If you’d like any more information on how to deal with absence in your business, just get in touch and we’d be happy to help!

Sources: CIPD 2016 annual absence management survey report.

Leeds based HR180 is a team of superheroes in HR Outsourcing, Projects and Consultancy committed to work in partnership with organisations of all sizes to establish working policies to go above and beyond Employment Law requirements, to protect both employees and employers alike. We love to hear from you, so call us on 0113 287 8150 or hit the Rescue Me button.

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