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How to reduce sickness absence in your business

by Gabriele Kaier, 10.01.2017

Sickness absence has a huge impact on your company’s profitability. Therefore, it is in your interest to determine the reasons for absenteeism and how this can be prevented. Find below 7 ways to reduce employee absenteeism.

Sickness absence has a huge impact on your company’s profitability. If employees get sick, their tasks have to be assigned to other employees or in the worst case scenario, the project has to be frozen. Therefore, it is in the interest of every company to determine the reasons for absenteeism and how this can be prevented. Studies conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that in 2014 sprains and strains accounted for 420.870 sick days. They required an average of 10 sick days, while fractures an average of 32 sick days. Musculoskeletal injuries, mostly related with back pain accounted for about 29% of all workplace injuries and costed an average $ 15.000. In the UK, one of the top five leading causes of short-term (55%) and long-term absences (63%) is workplace stress (source: Chartered Institute of Personnel Development CIDP). Among the top causes of short-term absences were minor illnesses like colds, flu, stomach upsets, headaches and migraines. One million UK workers take sick leave every week. In 2013, 15,2 million sick days were due to mental ill-health, often stress-induced which is often a cause of depression and anxiety. Managing absenteeism can be a helpful measure in understanding the reasons for sick leavesthe workplace. Furthermore, the effective management of leaves reduces sick leave time and puts an end to stress-induced illness. The task for HR managers, entrepreneurs and executives is to understand how to improve occupational health and employ prevention methods for the most common causes of sick leave.

7 ways to reduce employee absenteeism.

1. Manage and analyse work absences

Before launching prevention measures, understand the causes of sickness absence and determine the most common symptoms and influencing factors:
  • What kinds of illnesses constantly occur in your team/company?
  • What conclusions can you draw?
  • Are there any trigger or influencing factors which cause or determine the sickness?
  • How can you minimize these triggers?
If there is no company doctor to help you find the symptoms, call a medical insurance company. They can offer you tips and information on workplace health management.

2. Carefully choose your staff

Some illnesses are psychosomatic and are often due to frustration, demotivation, mental underload or simply bad working atmosphere. As a manager you can influence this directly just by carefully selecting your personnel or team members for your project team:
  • Are the social skills and values of the prospective employee a good fit to your company’s?
  • Which employee is the best candidate for the task?
  • Is the employee under- or over challenged?
  • What are the employee career goals and does it entail a promotion?
  • Is every team member successfully integrated?
The goal: Satisfied employees take fewer sick days!

3. Create flexible working hours

Flexible work schedules take care of the employee’s personal rhythm and foster productivity. Work-life-balance is important for aligning private and professional needs. Flexible working raises employee motivation and satisfaction and reduces stress – which in turn reduces absenteeism.

4. Improve the workplace

  • Ergonomic conditions
  • Lighting conditions
  • Noise disturbance
  • Indoor climate
  • Dissatisfaction due to odours or gases, for example through printers or other devices
  • Personnel opportunities to contribute to the workspace design
Once in a while review the above points and track any weaknesses paying attention to any employee complaints.

5. Talk with employees who:

1. have often and only short-term absences. The aim is to determine the cause of such absences 2. return after long-term absences. You can make their integration into the team easier Discussions should reveal the reasons for any absences and also give you an idea of potential solutions. You will need empathy, try to avoid communicating any suspicious or threatening behaviour

6. Strengthen team spirit

Raise awareness for absenteeism instead of explaining the negative effects on your business, sensitise your employees on a team level:
  • Absence time affects the whole team.
  • Absence time means more work for colleagues.
  • Absence time obstructs projects progress

7. Reinforce safety and reduce workplace accidents

Sick leaves are often caused by neglecting safety precautions or out of misperceptions of accident sources. Many companies have successfully reinforced their accident prevention and control methods. The following questions could help you:
  • Is there any health and safety advisor in your company?
  • Are you complying with the health and safety laws or regulations?
  • Have you informed your employees about the occupational health and safety standards?
  • Do your employees wear protective clothing or footwear where required?
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