Absence management: A tonic for HR Headaches

By Frankie Bryant | Absence | 5 min read

We’ve seen the end of ‘dry January’ for some, but nonetheless, there are plenty of HR hangovers from 2020. Here, we delve into 5 key headaches that HR professionals need a tonic for…

1. Holiday booked, holiday cancelled – repeat

There’s nothing quite as exciting as booking a holiday. But in 2020, booking and actually taking a holiday became two different things. Data from our global absence management system revealed that throughout 2019, just 6% of holiday requests were booked and then subsequently cancelled. In 2020, this doubled to 12% because of the impact of global lockdowns on travel and holiday plans.

For businesses using the more manual processes of booking and cancelling holiday, or using core HR system workarounds, this is quite the heavy admin process – particularly for larger businesses. Luckily for Edays customers, this was simple as clicking a button. But for those without, a headache to manage not to mention stressful for the individual that has had their dream holiday cancelled.

2. Stress buckets overflowing in HR

Stress-related absences were up a whopping 64% in 2020 according to Edays data. In the HR and Recruitment profession specifically, our data shows that there was a 70% increase in stress-related leave per user, year on year.

With such a huge increase in workload throughout 2020 and the navigation of multiple lockdowns on the worldwide workforce, this isn’t that surprising, but it begs the question, who is helping HR?

Making sure that regular breaks from work are prompted, wellness is actively encouraged and sickness is visible, is key to ensuring businesses aren’t sweeping absence under the carpet.

3. Keep calm and work from home

Overnight, the world’s leaders instructed those that ‘could’, should work from home. However, this immediate access to a telework model was not easy. In the US, prior to 2020, only around 7% of U.S. workers had the option to regularly work from home, meaning approximately 130 million workers needed to adapt their working lives, find space in their homes to accommodate a home office, and gain remote access to the tools they needed to do their jobs.

Similarly in the UK, in April 2020, 46.6% of people in employment worked from home. The logistics of making sure people had access to adequate working space and were taken good care of was no easy feat. Businesses that had adopted cloud-based, self-serving systems that work anywhere around the world – whether their staff were working out on the road, their bedroom, or the moon, was the key to a smooth transition.

Many businesses are now finding that they have a majority remote workforce and that trying to keep paper systems and electronic folders up to date is draining not to mention adding liability. But the good news is, according to research, the global market for cloud applications accounted for $118.7 billion in 2020 and is anticipated to reach $437.9 billion by 2026… so manual systems are set to be a thing of the past.

4. Trust, honesty and visibility

Before the acceleration of home-based work, it was very easy to see if someone was turning up to work physically unwell. Yet now, a recent Edays poll suggests that two-thirds of people have worked at home whilst sick during the pandemic, suggesting that presenteeism is on the rise behind closed doors. Even more worryingly, mental health has never been more difficult to spot.

Stress-related absences are on the rise, depression in the UK has doubled (ons.gov.uk) and the ongoing stigma around discussing mental wellbeing at work is ever-present. In fact, 50% of workers said they would not be honest about their reason for absence (HRD.com).  Here are our top tips for better health at work:

5. Attracting Remote Talent

Among other priorities this year, businesses still need to grow and continue to be successful. This requires retaining your top talent, but also appealing to a vastly larger pool of talent, now available due to our remote working settings. HRs hiring for roles previously destined to be UK based can now look to Europe and the rest of the world to increase the scope of their search. This is fantastic news, for both employer and employee, but it requires careful thought and consideration.

With businesses all over the world seeing the benefit of hiring remotely, your employer brand and your EVP need to be communicated effectively. 94% of employees consider an organisation’s employer brand before applying for roles, so your offering needs to be impressive and genuine.

Absence plays a huge role in attracting new talent, highlighting to candidates that the company prioritises health and wellbeing, and that ‘Absence Matters’. It is a huge indicator that the company cares, and in a world where we have come to learn that work-life balance is a crucial requirement for many, might just give you the edge over your competitors.

Absence management software provides the tonic to these headaches for HR professionals

The hangover from 2020 is heavy, but providing systems that reduce the administrative burden many HRs are struggling through at the moment, will make their jobs easy to handle and in turn impact the rest of the business more positively. By providing employees with systems to manage their own holiday allowance, management with data to support their teams and ensure individuals don’t experience burnout and hire the best talent as we continue to work remotely.


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