Staff Absence Management Guide for Agile Teams
Unplanned staff absence scenarios can cost a company. Here is our staff absence management guide to help combat this productivity-killing instance.
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Creating a staff absence management policy is often challenging. Whether that be creating it from scratch or amending one already in place. Many aspects need to be considered when creating a staff absence management policy. What is it targeted to? What details do you need to include in the policy? How are you going to incorporate the company’s goals into the new absence policy? — So on and so forth. Therefore, we created a thorough staff absence management guide to get you the answers to your questions so you can create a policy best suited for your company.
What is Staff Absence Management?
Staff absence management includes policies and procedures in an aim to reduce employee absence. Previously, the approach was vastly different from what you see today. Historically, the approach was limited to controlling absence and preventing absenteeism. Nowadays, however, absence management is not merely aimed at trying to ensure attendance for everyone, except for those who have a valid excuse. Absence management is more complex now. Covering a range of initiatives and procedures to try and eliminate disproportionate and persistent absences.
How Do Unnecessary & Unplanned Absences Affect Companies?
Absenteeism is being absent from the workplace with a lack of valid reason being provided. Absenteeism is a major reason and cause for the need for absence management. Absenteeism causes problems in planning, performance, and even in the work environment. The main reason for the need of preventing absenteeism is because of the costs it incurs. Direct and indirect costs of absenteeism cause companies billions each year, and therefore, many are willing to invest a great deal in trying to minimize the problem.
Direct Cost of Absenteeism:
- Wages paid to absent employees
- Replacement costs, usually in the form of overtime pay for employees covering their absent coworkers
- Insurance costs
- Administrative costs
- Short-term and long-term disability costs.
Indirect Cost of Absenteeism:
- Reduced productivity
- Reduce in quality of work due to overtime fatigue or understaffing
- Management costs (dealing with discipline and finding replacements)
- Replacement costs (time taken to train and integrate replacement employees)
- Cost of delays
While the direct costs are clear cut and often predictable by many companies, it is the indirect costs of absenteeism that are often overlooked. Those employees in the office will often have to cover for their absent collogues. This in turn will increase their workload, giving them more stress and lower morale. Having to cover for your coworkers often puts you in a position where you are required to do work you may not be completely familiar with. This in turn leads to mistakes.
There is also the risk of lowered productivity with increased absenteeism. With workers regularly calling in sick, projects can be delayed. There are lesser people to get work done, and those who are present face excessive workload and lowered motivation to do it. Moreover, having to pick up the slack of absent employees can create workplace stress, by creating a feeling of frustration amongst coworkers.
Top Causes of Sickness Related Staff Absence
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) Health and Wellbeing report for 2020 explores the issues of health, well-being, and absences in UK workplaces. The report provides valuable insight into the workplace and can be used to gain information for workplaces across the world. CIPD report states that minor illnesses remain the most common cause for short-term absence. The report sites mental illness as the most common cause of long-term absence. The CIPD report findings show that psychological issues are the main risk to people’s health at work.
According to the CIPD report 2020, organizations listed these causes as amongst the top three for short-term absence:
- Minor illnesses– 93% listed minor illnesses, such as; cold, flu, stomach upsets, headaches, and migraines.
- Musculoskeletal injuries– 52% listed musculoskeletal injuries like neck strains and back pains.
- Stress– 38% listed stress.
- Mental ill-health– 28% listed mental ill health like clinical depression and anxiety.
- Caring responsibilities for children– 24% listed caring responsibilities for children as one of the top three reasons for short-term absence.
According to the CIPD report 2020, organizations listed these causes as amongst the top three for long-term absence:
- Mental ill-health– 59% listed reasons like clinical depression and anxiety.
- Musculoskeletal injuries– 53% listed neck strains, repetitive strain injuries, and back pain.
- Stress– 46% listed stress.
- Acute medical conditions– 46% listed things like stroke, heart attack, and cancer.
- Minor illnesses– 22% listed minor illnesses like flu, colds, stomach upsets, headaches, and migraines as one of the top three reasons for long-term absence.
4 Ways to Manage Staff Absences in Your Business
There is no simple trick that can get everyone’s attendance up, but a combination of practices and tools should hopefully do the trick.
1. Flexible Working
Allowing for either the option to work from home or shift around working hours allows your employees to have a better work/life balance. Moreover, as the CIPD report stated, many employees take time off from work due to caring responsibilities for their children. Furthermore, employees have said they have responsibilities to old age parents or partners with special needs. Many employees in these situations have resorted to taking unplanned leaves just to take these dependent family members to routine appointments. Allowing for flexible working hours not only reduces the risk of this happening but also allows for a reduction in developing stress-related illnesses.
2. Promoting Healthy Lifestyles
Encouraging your employees to adopt healthy lifestyles while improving their quality of life can reduce your absence rate drastically. Providing the means for this, such as on-site facilities or perhaps gym memberships as one of their employee benefits can allow you to achieve this. If this is not feasible for you, just as simple as organizing a work walking or exercise club for weekly meetings can provide this to your employees. Focusing on your employees’ wellbeing can help considerably reduce stress and improve fitness. This in turn will reduce your absence rates. Simple changes like switching out vending machines for healthier alternatives can have a great impact on the number of unplanned absences in your company. You can also incorporate Employee Assistance Programs; these are there to assist employees in coping with issues in their work or personal lives by offering support where possible.
3. Adequate Training
The first type of training you need to provide is to your managers. Make sure they are taught how to spot absence patterns and deal with problems effectively. They need to be given the right amount of knowledge to handle absence management themselves. Allowing you to deal with other issues. Secondly, ensure you train your workers and managers on how to deal with stress and other wellbeing issues that may arise and result in increased absence levels. The CIPD report shows that three-fifths of the organizations believe that well-being is a matter for the senior leaders in the organization. But under three-fifths reported that line managers are bought into the importance of well-being.
4. Communicate Guidelines
Make sure that your employees are aware of what is and are not a valid reason for absence. Try and encourage employees with minor illnesses to work from home, this will allow for progress to continue and give them a chance to rest up and get better, while also avoiding other team members from catching their illness. Make sure that employees know they are not expected to drag themselves to work where they could be infecting others. Moreover, many employees take unplanned absences because they are unaware of other options available to them. Furthermore, try and incorporate a return to work interviews. These are a great way to allow employees who have been away on longer absences to seamlessly return to work.
They also help to identify if any underlying issues need to be addressed and amendments that can be made to make the employees work life easier. It also serves as a deterrent for non-genuine absences.
How to Create Staff Absence Management Policy?
When creating an absence management policy guarantee you include these following key elements to make sure your policy is as good as can be:
- Describe the different types of leaves available to be taken by employees
- Detail how paid time off is going to be accrued
- Decide on one absence management system to create clarity and be synchronized
- Make sure employees know how they are to request for leave
- Have an established approach to absenteeism, late attendance, and presenteeism
- Establish rules and consequences for employees who fail to adhere to the policy.
Fighting Presenteeism and Other Things to be Wary of
When creating an absence management policy, you need to be careful and avoid regulations that will lead to particular situations that can be unproductive for your employees or your company. One such situation to look out for is presenteeism. Presenteeism is when employees feel the need to come into work even if they are not up to it and are not feeling well. Presenteeism can result from several reasons which include being worried about job security, feeling they have too heavy a workload to take a day off, or even because of attendance incentives you may have adopted.
Presenteeism is not good for the employee or your company. They are likely to be less productive and more likely to make mistakes that otherwise would have been avoided. Moreover, depending on their illness, there is a chance they could infect other workers in the office. Moreover, you need to make sure your employees don’t feel too much pressure to keep up attendance, especially when coming into work would not be beneficial. This can lead to added stress which can make issues worse, ultimately leading to long-term absences.
Furthermore, if you initiate a return to work interviews but make them too daunting, employees may avoid taking off when they should just so they do not have to go through the procedure. Make sure you are welcoming to employees and are finding ways to solve their problems on their return. On the flip side, however, you need to make sure that you are not too lenient with your policy. This can result in a culture where employees take off for the smallest of reasons.
Make sure you monitor patterns of sickness and absences in your company. This will help you better understand your business and the people who make it. This understanding can help you create a better working environment where your employees feel comfortable and happy, and in turn require fewer absences and are more productive. We hope this guide will help you to create the perfect staff absence policy that will work best for you and your business.
Published at DZone with permission of Fred Wilson, DZone MVB. See the original article here.
Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.
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