Home Business Insights & Advice ‘Out of Office’: The absenteeism vs engagement battle

‘Out of Office’: The absenteeism vs engagement battle

by Robert Darling, COO at Eko
4th Mar 20 11:02 am

Absenteeism continuous to be a concern for businesses today, particularly at this time of year, despite the decline in numbers throughout the years. According to data from the National Statistics Office in 2019, companies lost an estimated 141.4 million working days due to sickness or injury in the UK in 2018, which is equivalent to 4.4 days per worker.

Aside from the more common reasons related to sicknesses, such as minor illnesses and musculoskeletal problems, mental health has also become one of the top reasons for absences in the workplace today. Work-related issues such as stress, anxiety and depression have been a key factor for absence, accounting for over half of all working days lost. In a 2019 survey, the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) found that the top cause of long-term absenteeism in the UK is mental health issues, followed by stress. A sick member of staff can cost businesses more than just productivity; they cost a tremendous amount of money too. In fact, absenteeism costs UK businesses billions of pounds, annually due to loss of productivity because of mental health issues alone.

Absenteeism is a pressing issue for employers today as it affects not just the business, but other employees, too. As mentioned, absenteeism can affect a company’s finances. Employers still need to pay for the absent employee’s salary, on top of the replacement or temporary employees who will take over the job. Further, companies need to manage administrative costs to cover for the employee who is not at work.

Piling pressure on others dampens morale

Meanwhile, the rest of the workplace will experience low productivity, as they need to do more work, resulting in low-quality output, as well as fatigue and stress due to the extra responsibilities placed upon their shoulders. Further, absenteeism can also dampen workplace morale, as employees have to fill in or take on extra work on top of their daily duties.

There are several reasons why the absenteeism rate is higher during the beginning or end of the year. One major cause is the change of weather. There’s a rise in upper respiratory tract infectious diseases, and it’s common for people to get cold or flu during this period, and can take one to two days away from work. Another reason is parents whose children are on school holidays, and they need to take a day off to take care of them. Some employees might also take this time to look for a new job after getting their yearly bonus and break. When they feel disengaged with their work, employees tend to look for more and better opportunities and with the New Year now in full flow, they are looking for new reasons to feel motivated again.

We can also link absenteeism to lack of inclusivity and low employee engagement in the workplace. When employees feel disengaged, they don’t feel connected with their colleagues or their workplace. When this happens, they tend to come up with excuses not to go into their office or place of work. Furthermore, when an employee feels stressed because of work, they could start feeling burned-out, which in turn can result in other more complex illnesses such as depression and anxiety. Also, workplace bullying can be associated with absenteeism. When managers or peers harass an employee, they’re more likely to call in sick to avoid these situations.

Interestingly if an employee feels highly-engaged at work, there is a 41% reduction in absenteeism and a 17% improvement in productivity. Engaged employees find a purpose to show up at work every day with renewed passion and feeling the meaning of their presence at work.

Health and wellbeing to boost productivity

Health and wellbeing have become a primary focus in today’s workplace. Companies have kick-started corporate wellbeing programmes to help look into the physical health and fitness of their employees. They have introduced regular health sessions such as office syndrome preventions and stretching breaks, in addition to meditation and mindfulness workshop conducted regularly to help manage stress. Organisations also tend to be more open to flexible office hours, as well as opportunities for employees to work remotely to help their staff work where and when they feel most productive.

As different factors affect employees’ attendance at work, employers should look into various solutions to curb this issue. A survey conducted by the Department for Work and Pensions in 2019 showed that the majority of employers (91%) agreed there is a link between work and the health and wellbeing of employees. With that, the implementation of an effective health and wellbeing programme with a holistic approach can help fix this issue. Aside from looking into the staff’s physical condition, employers should also promote a positive working environment to alleviate burnout.

Employers can also look into allowing flexible or remote work if they have not already done so. This policy can especially help parents who need flexible hours to spend time and take care of their children. Flexible hours can also help cut down time spent travelling to work, which can also reduce unnecessary stress to an employee.

Effective attendance management can also be helpful in providing support to help employees, especially those who take absences often. By utilising a robust system, employers can track which of their staff is taking a day off from work due to sickness or personal reasons. By collecting this kind of data, companies can address issues that affect their performance at work and the factors that trigger their absences.

Creating a strong, flexible working culture

Technology continues to be instrumental in transforming today’s workplaces and helping employees feel more engaged at work. Technology tools that help ease communication and collaboration in the workplace have made a strong, flexible working culture possible.

With this flexibility, employees can take time away from work, without losing productivity and connection with their colleagues. Using features such as chat and video calls can make it easier for employers to reach their staff even if they are not in the office. Meanwhile, project management tools such as checklists and tasks enable effective real-time collaboration amongst teams and staff working remotely.

HR technology that keeps track of absenteeism can help address this issue, too. By recording the attendance and identifying employees taking days off often, HR managers can conduct interviews to ensure that the staff’s wellbeing and health are in check. Doing so ensures that the company looks after its workforce and solve issues head-on as it can be a bigger company problem that needs immediate attention.

About Eko

Eko is the all-in-one employee engagement platform for the non-desk workforce. Enabling effective training and simplifying task delegation, Eko empowers and engages teams of all sizes, across multiple industries and locations by boosting internal communication, enhancing project and knowledge management efficiency and more. Founded in 2012 and head quartered in London, the company also has offices in Bangkok, Amsterdam, Berlin and Austin.  Having raised $28.7 million in funding to date, Eko is backed by leading VC firms including Gobi Partners, 500 Startups, RedBeat Ventures, Siemer Ventures and Tigerlabs Ventures, to name a few.

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