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Bad absence management leads to burnout – here’s how to break the cycle 

14 September 2022 5 min read

absence management burnout

Open your LinkedIn feed or any HR news site, and you will undoubtedly see the topic of burnout discussed somewhere.  

Over the last few years, it’s become an increasingly common issue for employers, with the ONS (Office for National Statistics) reporting that mental health was the number one cause of sick leave in 2021 with a 31% increase in lost working time.  

In a poll of 2,000 Britons conducted by Glassdoor, 72% of employees in full-time employment between 14th and 17th June 2022 said that they viewed annual leave as an effective way to combat burnout, but many were not using up their full allocation of time off.  

Reasons for this included 13% of people saying their workload felt too large to take a break, 9% felt pressure from their employers not to take annual leave, and 8% could not afford the time off financially.  

fatigued businesswoman feeling burntout and stressful

So, what leads to burnout, and how can it be addressed effectively?

One of the biggest factors in the rise in employees suffering from burnout is due to bad absence management.  

With many employees feeling like they are being actively discouraged from taking annual leave by their employers, or feeling as though their workload is too much and therefore can’t ‘switch off’ from work and take a restful break without worrying – it’s no wonder that much of the UK’s workforce is struggling to attain a healthy work-life balance.  

Burnout can lead to a decrease in productivity, increased unplanned absence due to physical or mental health problems, and an increased chance of high employee turnover. Staff who are discouraged from taking annual leave, or feel unsupported in their roles, will soon turn to looking for another job.  

This, in turn, can influence other employees within your organisation. If morale is down and people are regularly quitting, others might start to wonder if they should do the same.  

To battle the burnout, organisations must have clear structures in place when it comes to arranging and taking annual leave, managing sickness absence, and encouraging mental health days off.  

Healthy absence management – such as encouraging your staff to take at least a set amount of time off each quarter – can actually help your business in the long-run, and in a massively positive way.  

What can companies do to manage burnout? 

There are many ways in which businesses can strive to achieve a positive workplace culture, banish burnout and ensure that staff remain productive and content within their job.  

Annual leave 

Encouraging your staff to take regular annual leave is essential. It might sound counterproductive – there is plenty of work to do after all, but over the longer term, employees are more likely to remain productive and enjoy their work if they take short ‘micro’ breaks and longer ‘macro’ breaks on a regular basis.  

Having a policy in place, such as requiring employees to take a certain number of days off each quarter, will ensure that annual leave doesn’t build up and is spread evenly across the year. It will also be beneficial to the employees themselves, taking frequent time off to step away from the day-to-day routine and workplace stressors.  

Team activities 

It doesn’t all have to be about taking time off. Introducing sociable initiatives into the workplace such as regular lunches, events, and team activities can help to encourage positive employee wellbeing. 

It is a chance for people to take a step back from the usual routine and tasks, and connect with their colleagues on a more personal level, helping to drive a greater team-oriented approach.  

Mental health support 

Many employees still feel unable to ask for time off due to mental health. Traditionally, taking sickness leave has always centred around physical illness – and although that is shifting more and more in today’s work environment, it is still an issue for many.  

Introducing mental health days, separate from annual leave, encourages people to take time off if they’re not feeling themselves. It can be hugely rewarding to allow staff to take a day off to explore a new hobby, volunteer, or simply treat themselves to a walk in the countryside, and they can come back to work feeling refreshed.  

Having trained Mental Health First Aiders within your workforce is another way to support staff – there is someone they can speak to privately if things are getting too much. Employees should feel supported and able to share their stress, which can potentially help to alleviate problems before they escalate into unplanned absence from work.  

Workplace surveys 

Ever wondered what employees really think? An anonymous company-wide survey can provide you with great insight into what staff think is going well, and what if anything they would like to see more of. 

Though you probably won’t be able to implement all of the feedback you receive, you may notice patterns in the data which can help to prioritise any changes that can be made. It will also let employees know that they are being listened to – further nurturing that healthy workplace culture. 

 Use software to gain better visibility over leave  

If you can understand employee absence patterns in your business, you can introduce policies and practices that will champion employee wellbeing and make absences less likely in the future. Effectively tracking employee absences can result in happier employees and a more productive, efficient, and profitable business. 

Absence management in an organisation, be it planned or unplanned, can be a tricky task especially for medium and large size companies. How can you monitor whether everyone is using their annual leave allowance evenly throughout the year, which employees have been taking more unplanned days off than usual and which departments are regularly putting in overtime?  

That’s where edays absence management software comes in. Our platform can completely streamline the whole process, and can be tailored to suit your company’s requirements. Book a demo here to see how it works.  

Lewis at edays
September 14, 2022

Lewis is a highly skilled marketing professional with extensive experience in the HR and SaaS sectors. His writing focuses on discussing key topics and challenges for HR surrounding absence and leave management, digital transformation, employee experience and effective resource planning.