Seven steps to reducing employee absence

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Simply Business’ Josh Hall takes a look at some simple ways to maximise employee attendance.

Employee absence is a major problem for many businesses, leading to dips in productivity and delays in projects - both of which can be hugely expensive.
As an employer, you need to consider ways that you can maximise attendance. Of course, it is impossible to eliminate absence altogether; we all get ill at some point. But there are some simple steps you can take to help ensure that you lose as few days as possible to employee absence.

1. Understand the causes

You cannot hope to reduce employee absence unless you can identify its causes. There is a wide range of potential reasons why employees might be absent from work, but they can broadly be split into two categories: absence as a result of a genuine illness or injury; and absence without a good reason.
Try to find out exactly why employees are taking sick days. Conducting back-to-work interviews or questionnaires can help you to identify the reasons for absence, and take targeted action based on your findings.
2. Incentivise attendance

If you are concerned that employees are ‘pulling sickies’, or stretching the boundaries of what constitutes genuine absence, you might want to consider ways that you can incentivise attendance. Try offering rewards for full attendance over a certain period. For example, you might give a bonus to employees who don’t take a sick day over the course of a year, or award those employees who take the lowest number of days off.
3. Clarify your policy

A comprehensive, written policy regarding what does and does not constitute reasonable grounds for absence can go a long way to reducing the number of work days you lose. It is extraordinary how many companies have not explained to their employees what they deem to be acceptable reasons for missing work.
4. Identify problems early

Long-term absence often stems from relatively simple problems that, if identified early, can be nipped in the bud. Work-related stress is the classic example. You should be as sensitive as possible to the issues that could cause work-place stress. Do employees feel like they are being listened to? Do they have good relationships with their co-workers? Are they being set realistic goals? By considering these factors you can help to minimise the risk of long-term absence.
5. Provide proper equipment

All too frequently, absence is caused not by illness but by injury. And all too frequently, these injuries are cause by a lack of suitable equipment.

Musculoskeletal and repetitive strain injuries are amongst the most common causes of employee absence. You can significantly reduce the risk of these types of injury by providing your employees with the right equipment. If your employees spend a lot of time at their desks, for example, make sure that they have fully adjustable chairs with good lumbar support. Make sure that their desks and computer screens are set at a suitable height, and that wrist supports are available.
6. Encourage healthy lifestyles

If employees are unfit, they run a far higher risk of falling prey to illness. You can therefore reduce the number of days you lose by encouraging a healthy lifestyle.

Consider offering things like gym membership as part of your package of employee benefits. This need not be expensive; the big chains offer attractive deals to companies, but you might also be able to get a good price from a small local gym. Alternatively, you might consider arranging in-office health check-ups for your staff. This is sometimes also offered as part of a private healthcare package.
7. Build a good environment

Employees are less likely to fall victim to things like workplace stress if they enjoy the environment in which they work. Similarly, they are less likely to pull a sicky if they actually like going to work in the morning.

You should consider ways that you can build an enjoyable, stimulating environment for your workforce. There is a huge range of ways in which you can do this, and the methods you choose will depend on your situation. But they could be as simple as investing in refurbishments, buying some plants, or moving desks around. Alternatively, you might concentrate on ‘out-of-office’ activities like regular away days or after-work events.

Josh Hall is a business correspondent at Simply Business, a leading business insurance comparison site.

This article originally appeared in AccountingWEB sister title


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15th Apr 2011 23:39


Genuine illness cant be controlled - accept it, these things happen.

Sickies on the other hand are YOUR fault. YOU made bad choices when recruiting the staff, and YOU provide a working environment that doesnt incentivise staff to want to come to work.  Like most things most of the blame lies with BAD MANAGERS.

Which is why probably half of all businessmen really shouldnt be in business at all as they are clueless about looking after their staff.


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