While this is a record low over the last two decades, the figures still translate as billions of pounds lost and a serious drain on the productivity of the British workforce.
Truth be told, employee absenteeism is unavoidable; however, there are a few effective practices that managers can focus on to better manage staff absence so it does not become an enduring problem.
1. Look at the bigger picture
The epidemic of absenteeism has a greater context beyond the individual ‘cog in the machine’. Managers should study the patterns and trends of absenteeism in their organisation to help effectively mitigate reoccurrences.
2. Work culture needs to be routinely scrutinised
‘Organisational drag’ due to employee job dissatisfaction, lack of growth, poor morale, impossible workloads, undesirable working environments and inflexible work hours can create a massive strain on the workforce, leading to routine absenteeism.
Managers need to routinely mine from the staff what challenges in the workplace can be addressed to increase employee satisfaction and freedom.
3. Design and communicate clear policies regarding sick leave
Organisations need to design a clear sickness management strategy and communicate this to all employees to outline the criteria and protocol to apply for sick leave.
A routine ‘return back to work’ interview with absent employees should be a staple in each strategy to identify health issues and explore possible measures to reduce absenteeism in the future. Clear consequences for violating this policy should also be clearly spelled out.
4. Keep the individual in mind
Managers need to maintain empathy and a human and personal approach to addressing absenteeism to bring and maintain value, dignity and respect to its employees.
Offering one-to-one attention and listening to the employee’s stories will make them feel appreciated, with positive solutions and support to any problems identified addressed accordingly. Such meetings should be recorded in writing.
5. Out of the box thinking required
Creativity and innovation is a key tool that HR managers can use to tackle absenteeism in the workplace. New approaches to managing employee workflow, such as outsourcing some of the work to lessen strain on top performers and offering them work from home options and flexible hours, can also meaningfully impact the productive power of the work team.
Pioneering stress management training and promoting a healthy lifestyle in the organisation, such as walking or running clubs, can also enrich the employee experience.
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