Getting sick is an inevitable part of life and occurs out of our control. This means that it’s also an inevitable part of working life and sickness absence will occur.
But absence caused by sickness can be costly to businesses. Each sick day taken can cost you around £107.85. This figure is based on the average rate of sick pay in the UK. But given the lost sales and the damages to productivity caused by absences, the actual business cost of a sick day is probably much higher. In any case, it comes as no surprise that sick leave costs UK employers around £29bn each year.
The bad news is that staff sickness will always be a problem for employers. The good news is there 6 steps you can take to reduce sickness absence in your business.
1. Is your workplace environment making your employees sick?
Too much time spent indoors, too much artificial light, and too much time sitting down – many workplaces can be actively harmful to our health.
It’s time for a thorough audit of your workplace. Get some specialists in to ensure that there’s nothing that might be harming anyone’s health – like a faulty ventilation system, or a malfunctioning printer. And talk to your staff, to find out if they’ve any gripes with the current working environment and any ideas for how it might be improved.
When rethinking your working environment, take a leaf from the biophilia book.
Biophilia is the theory that humans have an innate tendency to seek connections with nature. Time spent in the great outdoors can bring huge health benefits, and it’s quite easy to introduce the natural world to the workplace. Go for as much natural light as you can. Choose earthy colors for your office furniture, and go all out with plants.
2. Review your health and safety
Time for another audit! This time you’re looking for potential causes of accident and injury, like worn equipment or faulty wiring.
If you haven’t got a health and safety executive, appoint one. They’ll make sure you’re complying with all health and safety laws and regulations, and they’ll be able to advise on what needs to change to make accidents less likely. They’ll also be able to assess if everyone’s equipment is fit for purpose, and that everyone has the tools they need to do their jobs without getting themselves killed.
Also, consider investing in a health and safety refresher course for your whole company. A lot of workplace accidents are caused by negligence and misconceptions about what’s safe and what’s dangerous. A bit of training will make your entire workforce more sensible and resilient.
3. Encourage your employees to be more active
You’ve probably heard that “sitting is the new smoking”. Experts believe that sitting for more than six hours a day can greatly increase your risk of early death.
On the other hand, exercise makes people feel great. It’s great for reducing stress levels, and it can strengthen the immune system, making it less likely that you’ll fall victim to those nasty bugs that make the rounds a few times a year.
If you want to reduce staff sickness in your company, look for ways to make exercise a regular part of the working day. Offer subsidized gym memberships and cycle-to-work schemes to any interested employees. Encourage your team to take walks on their lunch breaks, and consider setting up a few company sports teams.
There are also a few office exercises that anyone can try. And the more people who try them, the fewer people will feel self-conscious while keeping fit at their desks!
4. Promote healthy eating and diets
The other side of the health and fitness coin is healthy eating. The benefits that a healthy diet can bring are too long to list. Essentially, eating well can boost your immune system. So in theory, employees that eat well will be less likely to call in sick.
There’s also a strong link between nutrition and stress. A healthy diet can help you to manage your stress levels. So if your whole team’s eating healthily, you might look forward to a boost in productivity to complement your reduced absenteeism.
But how can you promote a culture of healthy eating in your workplace? The world’s most successful companies can afford to provide their staff with free canteens that exclusively stock healthy and nutritious food. They understand the value that good eating can bring to the workplace, so presumably, they feel that their investment pays off.
You probably don’t have the budget to provide anything so elaborate and generous. But there are still some steps you can take to make your team reconsider their eating habits.
The obvious first step is to provide a free fruit bowl and to fill your vending machines with healthier snacks and drinks. But beyond that, you could consider inviting a nutritionist to your office to offer some tips on substitutions and a few recipe ideas.
You could also organize weekly “food huddles” – fuddles – with an emphasis on using vegan or all-natural ingredients.
The aim isn’t to exert total control over what your employees eat because that would be insane and probably illegal. But by starting a conversation about healthy eating, in the long-term, you might expect to see improved moods, a boost to productivity, and a drop in absenteeism.
5. Promote the use of technology
Wellbeing technology can help your employees to stay on top of their health. With technology, they can adopt habits that will improve their health in their long term, eventually making them less likely to call in sick. Technology can even make it possible to spot early warning signs that could enable them to nip potentially serious conditions in the bud.
Wearable tech – such as fitness watches – can provide gentle prompts to employees to stand up and move every once in a while. To simply stand up from your desk and stretch might not look like much, but over time such a simple thing can make a huge difference to your health and wellbeing.
Wellbeing platforms can give you a detailed overview of your employees’ health. You can use them to monitor the progress of your employee wellbeing program and to spot any areas that might need improvement.
There are some ethical questions to consider about collecting and monitoring your employees’ health data. But it can’t be denied that wellbeing technology can play a major role in helping you to create a workplace culture that actively promotes a healthy lifestyle.
6. Understand your absence data to reduce sickness absence
Finally, if you want to minimize sickness absence, you need to understand your employees and the sort of things that might encourage them to call in sick.
If you can learn when and why your employees are most likely to call in sick, you might spot some opportunities to make some lasting improvements to your workplace and your company culture.
Logging employee sickness will give you a clear overview of your business’s absence data. You’ll be able to spot patterns, which could help you identify ways in which you can act to make staff sickness less likely.
For an example of how this might work, consider this: We analyzed the data of more than 500 UK organizations that use Edays. We found that UK employees are most likely to call in sick in the winter months, with November being the single worst month of the year for unplanned absence.
Why November? Because when the weather’s bad, the days are short, and the temperatures are low. Christmas is near, which is a major source of stress and anxiety for many. Deadlines must be met, clients must be appeased, and there’s a whole host of financial pressures for everyone at this time of year.
If you looked at your absence data and found that November was a bad month for staff sickness in your business, how would you react?
Maybe you could look at your budget, and see if there’s room to offer generous bonuses that could help your team deal with the financial stress of Christmas.
Maybe you could talk to key members of your team about staffing levels and workload, to ensure that nobody’s dealing with a terrifying list of tasks to complete before the end of the year.
Or maybe you could introduce a flexible working policy so that your team could work from the comfort of their homes rather than commuting through the very worst of British weather.
The insights you gain from monitoring your absence data can directly inform your employee wellbeing program. So better absence management, combined with a holistic approach to wellbeing in the workplace, could make a huge difference to your staff’s sickness levels.
This is just one way in which the world-famous Edays absence management platform will make your business more resilient and productive.