Pressured by a fast-paced work environment and an always-on business culture, many employees may feel tempted to pull a sickie. The first Monday in February has traditionally been the day when people are most likely to do that, with theories around it varying from general tiredness and winter blues, to career evaluation and genuine sickness.
While cold and flu season might give real cause for calling in sick, a variety of other factors could be leading to people feigning sickness. In fact, according to CoreHR’s Smart Talent Expects report, as much as 41 per cent of the UK’s top performing employees are close to breaking-point, with working practices negatively impacting their emotional and physical well-being. Low morale and toxic, high-pressure working practices can significantly impact employee absence, which is why workplace culture and HR strategies must lead the business to breaking bad habits. Happy and engaged employees don’t feign sickness, so businesses who spend the day fielding calls from sick workers must weigh-up whether they have the right strategies in place, or if they’re managing staff in the right way.
Fostering smart engagement
Analysing common themes surrounding employee absences is the first step to overcoming the issue. To ensure the workforce remain happy, motivated and productive all year round, it is crucial that businesses do more to identify potential issues and ensure the right support is given before things come to a head. HR leaders have a huge role to play in shifting employees towards a more positive and motivated mind-set, and smart technologies can help here.
Smart analytics can provide valuable insight and help HR leaders recognise different tendencies within the workforce. From increased sickness and unauthorised absence, to overtime and untaken annual leave, smart technologies can help recognise red flags before they escalate. These data-driven insights can also feed into well-being programs to help address individual employee needs and risks. One example of using that data for good is the HR team identifying unhealthy working practices through overtime data. Employees must be given the space to grow, but there should be checks in place to ensure they can retain a good work-life balance so they can still switch off outside of work.
Cultivating a supportive, positive work culture is key to ensuring employee satisfaction and driving further engagement. Only by meeting employee expectations for a seamless, collaborative and balanced working experience, will businesses be able to harness their full potential and ensure a motivated workforce throughout the whole year.
Predictive technologies can also be used to forecast potential high levels of absence, helping businesses plan for issues before they occur. This is especially beneficial for the retail, healthcare and manufacturing sectors that rely heavily on shift work. Data analytics can significantly ease staff rostering processes and help managers find replacements at the last minute. Forecasting and planning ahead for busy or quiet periods can take away a lot of the hassle of absenteeism, freeing up managers’ time to focus on more pressing issues.
Empowering employees with the ability to request last-minute leave and swap shifts with colleagues is another way every business can tackle high levels of absenteeism. Mobile technology can allow employees have more control over their work schedules, providing more flexibility and freedom. It ultimately allows businesses to prepare for any eventuality ahead of time, maintain productivity and limit cost.
Embracing best practices
The reality is that there is no ‘one size fits all solution’ that works for all. Peak times, challenges and even pace differ significantly between organisations, so effective workforce strategies will vary. The first Monday of February may be regarded as National Sickie Day, but this could be different for your business. Companies who make assumptions, and decisions based on outdated cultural norms and established practices risk gambling employee drive and ambition.
Now is the time to focus on identifying practices that support employees and guide workforces to new heights. Specific work expectations, satisfaction, and career outlook can all affect an employee’s motivation and well-being, so there must be a conscious effort from HR leaders to tackle this. By providing an environment and tools that enable smart talent to succeed to the best of their capabilities, businesses can ensure employees don’t feel the need to feign sickness.
In turn, management can improve not only individual employee performance, but the overall performance of the business. Influencing employee attitude and satisfaction is an ongoing effort. It’s about working strategically and with the right tools to ensure an engaged, empowered and motivated workforce all year round.
Interested in optimizing employee performance through organizational design? We recommend this Optimising Performance Management through Organisation Design training day.
Dean Forbes is CEO and member of the board of CoreHR, where he is responsible for continuing their exciting strategy of growth and market disruption. He is also a member of the board of directors for GTTP, and as an active advocate of community development, he currently serves as chairman and founder of Project 10.
Prior to CoreHR Dean was a member of the executive board of Primarvera where he led their international operations through a period of incredible growth. Following a successful acquisition of Primavera by Oracle, Dean was appointed Group Vice President for project and portfolio management solutions for Oracle globally, making him one of the youngest group presidents, whilst also participating on Oracles UK Executive committee.