Posted: 3rd February 2017
Monday 3 February is ‘National Sickie Day’. Here’s Neil Pickering, director at Kronos UK, on the day British workers are most likely to ring in sick - as well as his top tips for businesses on how to combat absenteeism and manage a less productive or thinning workforce.
As well as National Sickie Day, today is also the day after the Super Bowl – an event that has become associated with late nights and drinking, even in the UK. So, as well as a high level of employee absence, businesses can also expect to see an increase in staff lateness. In fact, Channel 4 has even gone as far as to promote a ‘Super Sickie Service’, providing employees with everything they need to pull a sickie after the Super Bowl, so it’s no surprise that our research found that an estimated 1.5 million employees call in sick the Monday after the event.
While National Sickie Day has now become a bit of a commodity, it should serve as a reminder to organisations of the importance of monitoring and controlling absence in the workplace. Whilst many are well aware of the headaches of absenteeism, managers often do not have a clear understanding of the full costs of employee absence. Factors such the additional expense to fill the gaps with overtime or temporary labour and the drain on managers’ time and lost productivity can average 35 per cent of base payroll. So, without visibility of these trends in absenteeism, UK businesses will continue to struggle to contain costs.
It’s also worth remembering that the impact of absenteeism extends beyond simple financial implications. As well as putting extra pressure on other members of the workforce within an organisation, employee absence significantly, and negatively, affects both productivity and employee engagement. Further implications of absenteeism include low morale, overtime and HR costs. When there is an unscheduled absence, the HR department must act upon this immediately, trying to find a temporary replacement for the day, or work with departmental managers to re-assign existing employees to make up for the lost workload.
In today’s fast-paced business environment, businesses must have the ability to react quickly to attendance issues and reduce the toll employee absence takes on the organisation. It is extremely important for managers to be able to manage all absence-related policies comprehensively so they can manage the impact these risks can have on the businesses bottom line. Therefore, businesses should be looking towards workforce management solutions to help manage time and attendance, and provide businesses with both the visibility and control over employee absence that so many desperately need.
Top tips on how to combat absenteeism and manage a less productive or thinning workforce
1. Turn unplanned absences into planned ones
In addition to employees calling in sick after a late night, an estimated 4.4 million employees arrive late to work the Monday after the Super Bowl. However, managers who know ahead of time that employees will sleep in can curb productivity losses. For example, our research has shown that businesses will see a 19% loss in productivity for unplanned absence as opposed to 13% for planned absence. So how can we make more of those unplanned absences planned? Employers can create policies and a company culture that will encourage and support employees for requesting time off beforehand, which gives the managers the ability to plan for that absence ahead of time and mitigate some of that productivity loss.
2. Offering flexibility
Organisations with a high number of Gen X and Gen Y employees are typically short staffed the Monday after the big game. So companies, especially those with younger employees, should offer flexible work hours when it's feasible. Being an employer of choice often comes down to not necessarily the employer that pays the most, but the employer that gives employees autonomy, treats employees like human beings who have lives outside the office and is willing to make accommodations in the form of paid time off, flexible work hours, and work from home where that’s supportable.
3. Look for patterns
By analysing absenteeism data, employers can find and offset patterns where workers typically call in sick. For example, they can market flu benefits to convince employees to get flu shots before suffering from widespread absences. Our research found that around the world, Chinese workers are most likely (58%) to call in sick so they can stay home and watch or attend a sporting event, while in France only 1% said they were likely to do so.
4. Get in on the fun
Which sports were most likely to cause employees to miss work? In the UK, Australia, France and Mexico Football takes the top spot, whilst in the US it’s Soccer. Rather than accept the high level of absenteeism around such events, employers can positively channel excitement by having their on-site cafeteria serve game-day food like subs or wings. Or they can tap into the excitement of the event by hosting employee appreciation days throughout the year. Sports provide a connection for colleagues to discuss the game, let off steam and get together in a friendly way, so organisations should embrace them.
5. Plan accordingly
Don’t plan to kick off any big, bold initiatives for Monday morning after a big sporting event. Instead, proactively bring up the possibility of absences the week before and ask that anyone planning a late night let them know now whether they’ll be coming in later or not at all on Monday.