Time lost through sickness and absence – supporting wellbeing

In 2016  I attended a CIPD day on well-being.  There was a real buzz in the air with different businesses sharing their ideas on helping with wellness, in turn bringing the sick absence days down.

ACAS reported Sick absence costs the UK economy £8.4bn yearly.  Another fact to note is the cost of replacing staff who are forced to give up work because of mental health issues – £2.5bn per CIPD.  The median cost of absence per employee in 2015 was £554.

Per the Health and Safety Executive, it estimates that 35% of work related ill-health is stress related.

A recent survey completed by CIPD and Simply Health showed only 44% of Managers were trained by Employers to deal with short term absences.

Life can be extremely stressful these days so as a Manager and Leader.  You need to make time to have regular 1-2-1s with your employees to pick up issues and give them the opportunity to offload.  The times I have seen it go wrong, is when Managers don’t make the time for regular catch ups or observe body language or a change in behaviours.  Often the chance to just share problems whether personal or work can alleviate the pressure to the employee.  As the Manager, you can then coach the person through possible solutions or answers and as the Manager you can also signpost to the GP and other Health people.

Other occasions, I’ve seen absence patterns that Managers do not challenge with employees.  Using a calendar to chart absences will often show if there are patterns and this then enables the Manager to have the needed discussion, to put supportive actions in place and where needed warnings of potential further actions.

Sometimes there are hidden disabilities which no one is aware of and the employee just needs some reasonable adjustments.  These can range from adjusting working hours, planning the workload to accommodate treatments, to equipment for work.  But the point is, if you don’t have the 1-2-1 conversation, you never find out and the person goes off sick.

Any workplace needs an environment where it feels safe to discuss personal issues, without it being shared around all and sundry.  Promote a confidential environment where employees feel they can trust their Managers and then be open and honest, will enable solutions to be discussed, stopping unnecessary sick absence.

Another absence reason is musculoskeletal (bad backs etc) and this is often high on the absence reasons.  Make sure your employees have completed appropriate training around DSE for Workstations and manual handling as appropriate.  Ensure regular breaks are taken from the main activities to stop repetitive injuries and ensure your business has the right equipment in place.  If an employee needs treatment, then consider giving the time off as it will prevent the person going off sick and creates a culture of caring for the person.

This leads into the role of a wellness or wellbeing champion who is passionate about the subject of good health and care.  There are lots of initiatives you can bring in, from sharing of healthy eating recipes (could set up a Facebook group) to having a healthy eating competition to buying a couple of Fitbit heart rate monitors which record steps, physical activity and heartbeat to generate a healthy competition.  Works well in Small Employers.   Often the wellbeing champion can arrange charities and other support organisations to attend an event to give support and information to employees

The support organisations out there are often willing to come in and talk to employees as they want to create an understanding of the key issues. If you would like the organisations available to support employees help card – add your email in this link http://eepurl.com/cf8da9. These organisations include mental health and it can be useful to follow their updates as they have mental health days across the year and you can use this to publicise useful articles and booklets to assist employees and direct them to the right places.

As a business remember to set by example a culture of a work: life balance and if an employee is struggling with their workload, sit down and discuss options.  Don’t just ignore the problem or alternatively, state it’s the employee’s problem.  Otherwise, before you know it you will lose the person to sick absence or they will leave and then you will have recruitment and training costs.  Often the answers are simple such as using delegation, prioritising, breaking tasks into bite size chunks and so on.


I hope you find these tips useful.

Take care and good luck on tackling sick absence issues.





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