by Rosie Reynolds

Absenteeism - How it affects businesses and how to combat it.

Habitual absence from work, or absenteeism, is thought to be one of the major causes of lost productivity in the modern workplace. While it’s expected and largely understood that an employee might miss a few days annually due to illness or unforeseen circumstances, there can be major fallout if absence becomes expected or routine. Absenteeism not only poses a threat to productivity, and expense of lost wages, but can have a negative impact on overall morale and mood in the workplace.  

So why does absenteeism become a common issue in many businesses?  

There are obviously a whole host of reasons an employee might be absent on a particular day and it’s likely impossible to list every single one. The reasons provided to the employer and the actual reasons might differ slightly, but the last few years of surveys and research into this area have provided a few answers.  

One of the most common causes of absenteeism on the more legitimate end of the spectrum can be childcare or eldercare, where other arrangements have fallen through, or a dependent requires unexpected care. Injury or random illness also generally falls in this same relatively unavoidable category, often exacerbated by cold and flu season, certainly during the COVID 19 pandemic.  

Chronic illness, from injury or otherwise, can also lead to repeated absence. Depending on the type of organisation, this can quickly lead to a snowballing of missed work and deadlines. Chronic conditions by their nature, have often remained untreated for an unnecessarily long time, and can sometimes be down to an individual feeling they don’t have access to the resources to combat it effectively. Providing high quality health insurance via work can serve as a good reminder to deal with these issues and promote the maintenance of good health amongst a workforce.  

Similarly, unreasonably heavy workloads and high-pressure environments can often lead to individuals avoiding going to work. Employers might be less likely to catch this one, as they can often unwittingly be causing this stress, but it is important to look out for if searching for a root cause of absenteeism. An unpleasant or highly stressful work environment can often compound depression or anxiety felt by employees who are avoiding coming to work.  

Collectively, these reasons for absenteeism can do some serious damage to a business. Costs incurred by unchecked absenteeism range from the wages paid to absent employees, the high cost of emergency replacement workers and administrative costs as well as causing losses through reduced productivity, reduced morale amongst employees who have to cover the workload and managerial time wasted on disciplinary action and replacing staff.  

So how can employers combat this problem? 

Because so many of the causes are out of an employer's hands, absenteeism is a difficult problem to find any kind of one size fits all solution to. Focusing efforts on positive changes, like implementing policies focused on maintaining employees’ mental and physical health are always more effective than overzealous disciplinary action.  

Though illness, whether random or chronic, might be difficult to predict or take proactive steps against, having steps in place that allows your organisation to be as reactive as possible will put you in a better position long term.  

Providing comprehensive health insurance policies can ensure employees attend to their health quickly and have access to the necessary resources to get back to fighting strength as soon as possible. Easy access to high quality healthcare often incentivises employees to use it earlier than they might otherwise, meaning the potential disruption to productivity is also minimised.  

As well as proving an effective solution to absenteeism, providing a robust healthcare package through work has proved exceedingly popular with employees overall. Recent surveys placed health insurance, critical illness cover and health cash plans among the most important parts of employee benefits packages. Almost 90% of participants in the survey also indicated that benefits provision significantly informs their decision in working for an organisation. While health benefits are widely valued, employees also reported rarely being consulted about them, with 67% reporting never having being consulted at all. In order to provide a package that really reflects the needs of employees, it is important to involve the workforce in decisions around their healthcare plans. This kind of involvement also helps to foster loyalty and a positive, open relationship between employee and employer.  

If you want to find out more or talk over how a policy could help your workplace, contact Slimbridge Health today.  

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