The first Monday in February (which this year is the first) has been coined National Sickie Day in the UK.
According to research conducted by O.C Tanner, an employee recognition company, during the first lockdown UK workers took 68% more days off than normal in order to avoid work. Over half (53%) of UK workers dreaded going to work. In addition, almost half (48 %) stated that they had nothing else to give to their job.
Statistically, this is when most people will phone in sick using a range of different excuses to take the day off. Having a cold or flu are the most popular excuses given but, it is telling that these are ‘excuses’, which suggests that maybe they are not as engaged as much as their bosses would have them believe.
Whilst colds, flu, and food poisoning were the most popular excuses given, 46% of those interviewed stated that ‘feeling tired’ was the real reason and 40% also said ‘they just didn’t feel like it’.
Robert Ordever, Managing Director of O.C Tanner Europe, states that these are key signs of burnout, saying:
“The signs of burnout include dreading work and trying to avoid it, as well as exhaustion and feelings of futility. More than ever, workers need support and understanding from their organisations, and this includes forgetting days such as ‘National Sickie Day’ which whitewashes the seriousness and complexities of the current situation.”
Not only does absenteeism mean that employees and their health are negatively being impacted, but this also has serious repercussions for businesses. Data collected by Deloitte found that poor mental health costs UK employers up to £45 billion a year.
In January we had ‘Blue Monday’ and in February we have National Sickie Day. This is not a new phenomenon; we have been aware of these days for a number of years and yet the desire to combat the issues leading to them does not seem to be there.
Rowlinson Knitwear, a school wear supplier that is a B Corporation and a Living Wage employer, has offered various tips that can help HR to cultivate a healthy work culture, alleviating the need for employees to “pull a sickie” in the first instance.
The idea behind duvet days was to reduce the number of sick days that were taken, specifically the days when an employee is ‘pulling a sickie’.
Introducing duvet days can ensure that employees feel that they are being treated with respect. As a result, they become more productive in the workplace. The scheme also allows employees to avoid lying to their employers, specifically on days where they are not in the right frame of mind to work, promoting honesty in the workplace and not lying about being ‘sick’.
Put people first
Putting people before profit gets the best out of your people and the organisation. The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the importance of genuine care in the workplace, with those that have fallen short suffering reputational damage. Employee-owned businesses invoke greater engagement and productivity, improved employee retention and greater customer satisfaction. And happier people means fewer absences. Putting people first is no longer a “nice to have”, but a commercial imperative.
Adopt clear values and a strong purpose
A clear and relatable purpose provides a common goal that everyone can work towards, uniting colleagues and creating a greater sense of responsibility to each other. A values-led business ensures that all decisions are aligned with a central moral compass. Matched by recruiting people who exhibit these values, everyone cares about the business doing well and are less likely to take unnecessary time off.
Businesses need to value compassion and caring for others, reinforced in everything it does, from how people are treated during the recruitment process through to how they’re managed on a daily basis.
Favouritism reaps disillusionment and resentment so be fair in everything, from pay and rewards through to development opportunities. And if you’re not a real Living Wage employer, what message is this sending to your people?
Be flexible and understanding
This is crucial at all times, especially during a crisis. Businesses must allow their people the flexibility to work around other commitments, while being understanding and accommodating about their availability for meetings and the ability to meet deadlines.
If your people don’t think you appreciate them, they’ll feel more willing to fake illness for some time off. Staff recognition must become part and parcel of daily working life, with managers showing appreciation of their teams, and peer-to-peer recognition encouraged. Nicola Ryan, Colleague Support Director at Rowlinson Knitwear, says:
“Organisations with consistently high rates of absenteeism must take a long, hard look at their business model, culture and leadership style. Even just a few improvements to workplace culture, so that people feel more motivated and engaged to do their best, could make the world of difference!”
Companies and society as a whole need to do more in terms of talking about what is causing this suffering for a large number of people every single day. We need to ask staff, are they happy? If not, what can we do to make them happier?
Organisations can no longer operate with a policy of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’, they need to show employees that their health and well-being is of paramount importance to the organisation’s productivity ratings and staff engagement.
For help in improving the mental health and well-being of your workforce take a look at our other resources.