Reducing sickness rates at work will have a significant impact on a company’s profitability, effectiveness, and profile. When employees are unwell, tasks need to be put to one side or given to other team members. Sometimes, a major project may even have to be placed on hold completely. This can affect a company in many ways, including earnings and how customers and co-traders perceive the business.
Every company should focus on doing their utmost to minimise sickness at work, looking at the root causes and adopting solutions.
National UK statistics show that businesses have already come a long way in reducing workplace sickness. Since the 1990s, the average sickness rate per employee has almost halved. Today, average figures for employees taking time off due to ill health stand at just over four days per individual, per annum. Two or three decades ago, the sickness rate was over seven days per employee, per annum.
However, even though giant steps have been made, further progress is possible! So, here are some top tips to help to reduce staff sickness rates:
- Keep the workplace as hygienic as possible
Good hygiene standards at work help to promote a healthy environment and reduce the spread of infections, bugs, and viruses. Also, establishing a hygienic working environment will positively impact on the mental health and wellbeing of staff. This, in turn, will help to reduce stress caused by poor working conditions. After all, stress and mental health issues are among the major causes of sickness absence.
Particular areas to consider when looking at good workplace hygiene practices include:
– General cleanliness of all areas
– Sufficient sanitary facilities in a good state of repair and cleanliness
– Adequate rest and break facilities
– Suitable lighting conditions
– Effective noise control
– Temperature and indoor climate control
– Ergonomic standards tailored to individuals (desks, PCs, and workstations, including machinery and equipment operation) to reduce ill-health through muscular-skeletal problems, RSI, etc.
- Promote healthier lifestyles for employees
Great benefits come from supporting employees in leading healthier lifestyles. This starts with the basics, such as sound nutrition, right through to fitness and leisure activities supported by the employer. Business owners and managers should provide information concerning healthy lifestyles to staff in appealing and easy-to-read formats. In addition, practical steps can be taken, such as helping with gym subscriptions or even setting up a workplace gym.
Participation in local health schemes and groups will also support and motivate staff to stay fit and healthy. Ultimately, this will lead to reduced sickness and absence rates at work through the better overall health of employees.
- Create flexible working schedules
Since one size doesn’t fit all in terms of work schedules and patterns, building in an element of flexibility will be beneficial in reducing sickness rates at work. Flexible working patterns address an employee’s personal rhythm and lifestyle, and help to foster productivity.
Work-life balance is another important area for employers to consider. Here, harmonising private and professional needs can reduce tiredness and stress, and have a positive impact on absence rates.
Flexible working promotes employee motivation and satisfaction – staff will feel supported and more motivated at work. This means that the workplace culture becomes more positive, resulting in less time off through stress or mental health illnesses, and fewer employees feeling tired and rundown. It allows employees to focus on their health more, particularly when it comes to making an appointment with a doctor or going to the gym in the afternoon.
- Talk to employees who have high sickness levels
Understanding the root causes of sickness in individuals is key to beginning to solve the underlying problems. In general, staff tend to have one of two types of absence patterns – frequent, short-term sick leave or more extended absence periods. No matter which category an employee may fall into, determining the reasons behind their ill-health is vital.
Any discussion with an employee should be approached with sensitivity, and managers will need empathy to avoid displaying any suspicious or threatening behaviour. The overarching support of an HR policy such as a sickness and absence policy will provide the right backdrop to resolving issues.
Summing up, it’s essential to raise awareness about absenteeism instead of only focusing on the negative effects on business. The task for business owners and managers is to understand how to improve occupational health using prevention methods such as those noted above to address the most common causes of sick leave.