Stress and sickness at work
Stress and sickness at work! Absences from work happen. There will always be times when staff are unable to attend work due to illness. You will never be able to stop absences from happening but it is possible to help minimise the negative effects that can lead to, cause and sustain staff absences that can stop an employee from returning to work at all.
According to research by AXA PPP healthcare, 23% of employees say they won’t tell their line manager the real reason for their absence when calling in sick because they’re afraid of being judged, with a further 15% saying they’re afraid they won’t be believed.
The way you deal with and respond to staff sickness as a manager can make a difference to how employees feel about work. As these statistics from the Office of National Statistics show, the number of absences is decreasing steadily over time – from 178 million days lost in 1993 to 131 million days lost in 2013 which could signal that the approaches to staff absences are improving.
When there is a negative approach to absences in the workplace, this can often lead to extended future absences. As a manager, it is wise to be supportive and considerate of an employee’s absence while ensuring you have the information you need to keep things running. For example, find out the reason for the absence and how long they’re likely to be off and finally find out what work will need to be picked up while they are absent. Listening and demonstrating understanding is key here.
Numerous short-term absences can be disruptive to the day-to-day running of the workplace. Statistics collected by the Confederation of British Industry show that employees take on average 4-6 sick days a year. Logging absences will help you as a manager to spot problems and put the proper support in place and there a number of software packages available to help you do this. Absences like this can indicate serious issues with an individual or wider problems within your business. If you recognise a pattern it is important to raise this with the staff member. A conversation is often enough to alert the staff member to any cause for concern you have about their behaviour.
Long-term sickness can affect your business in a different way to short-term absences. It can be a difficult time for the staff member affected, not to mention you as their manager. In this instance it is important that you maintain a connection between the staff member and the organisation. Obviously, it is imperative that their duties are picked up to avoid any detrimental effect to the ongoing productivity of the workplace, while also preparing for the staff members eventual return to work.
In the case of a long-term absence from the workplace ensure the employee has given you a sick note from their doctor explaining their absence and the length of time they’re likely to be off. This should be logged with your payroll department so that the sickness can be monitored and budgets adjusted correctly.
When the staff member is ready to return to work it is important to make reasonable adjustments and provide them with the equipment to make sure they’re still able to do their job to the best of their ability. A phased return may also be an option whereby their return to work is a more gradual process. In this instance, it is best to meet with the employee before their return and plan on how best to approach their return to ensure both parties are happy with the arrangements.
Overall, there are simple ways to help prevent absences in the workplace. The most basic principle is to create a culture of openness and engagement. Lead by example, and ensure you establish clear goals and expectations for your team, so you are all working towards the same purpose. Making your staff feel valued and involved in your business will provide them with satisfaction and security in their jobs, and hopefully will persuade them away from taking numerous and unnecessary absences.
Wendy Smith is a career consultant, life coach and business coach with depth of experience in organisational development, management, coaching and personal development. That experience means she is equally at home helping clients find a new career direction, starting-up new businesses or dealing with life’s more challenging personal issues. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wendy has written a little eBook on how to get on with your boss and a book on job search – you can find all her books on Amazon at this link