Reducing sickness absence and increasing employee engagement: Part Two
With ever-increasing workloads, seemingly shorter pay-packets and every second person suffering from the flu, it’s little surprise that many employees succumb to the temptation to hit snooze on the alarm clock and call in sick. So what can companies do to ensure that going in to work is a better option?
In our last article we discussed the day-to-day measures that need to be put in place for a company to have an effective sickness absence policy. In the second part of our two-part series, we look at more proactive strategies that companies can implement.
Focus on employee motivation
Research shows that well motivated employees who enjoy high levels of job satisfaction, are more committed and less likely to succumb to the lure of the duvet day (or the temptation to interview for a job with a competitor).
Increasing autonomy where appropriate is a valuable staff motivation technique. It sends the message that team members are trusted and their contributions valued. And let’s face it, you are more likely to come up with innovative, time saving enhancements to a way of working if it’s your time you are saving. The fact that your time also happens to be the company’s time is secondary from an individual’s perspective.
It is also worth consulting with your employees on issues that affect them wherever possible. When people have been involved with a decision, they have a vested interest in a successful outcome and they are more likely to be committed to an environment where they feel that they have been given a stake in success.
If possible, give managers discretion to allow a reasonable degree of flexibility, for example, allowing an employee to come in an hour or so late to deal with a domestic issue and make up the time later. If the approach is implemented fairly and equally, it can help reduce sickies, improve employee relations and strengthen commitment.
Again, so long as it is used maturely, letting team members take an early lunch to beat the queues at the post-office should be appreciated and lead to a more committed workforce.
It’s also worth contemplating amending policies during major sporting events like the World Cup or the Olympics, extending the working day so that, for example, individuals can decide to watch a football match during work time without any loss of productivity from the company’s perspective (so long as they are not disrupting colleagues).
Everybody needs recognition that their contribution is meaningful and appreciated. Implementing an employee recognition scheme that offers rewards based on achievement and empowers colleagues to thank one another can be a powerful way to tangibly invigorate engagement and optimise performance.
The effectiveness of a recognition scheme depends on timeliness of delivery, the ability to link recognition to corporate goals or values and the appeal of any rewards on offer – gift cards or digital rewards are a popular choice as they offer great choice to the employee.
The current generation of social recognition platforms means that this doesn’t need to be complicated to implement or require a high degree of management or administration time.
Reward low absence rates
Attendance incentives or bonuses are sometimes used to reward good attendance records as part of a broader absence management programme.
It’s an approach that requires careful consideration and planning so as not to disadvantage employees who have to take time off sick because of a disability or a pregnancy-related illness (both of these groups are protected in law), but there are plenty of ways of making sure that it is implemented fairly and with sensitivity. Again, the current generation of online reward platforms can support this type of approach with minimal implementation or administration time.
Take steps to reduce stress
A little stress affects us all from time to time – but too much pressure can manifest itself in physical symptoms and evolve into serious illness that can lead to a protracted absence, removing resources and expertise from the workplace.
One effective counter-measure is to train line managers to look out for signs of stress among employees and try and find ways to help their teams cope better with the demands of their job. Encourage managers to use both formal and informal performance conversations to keep a check on how well teams are coping with their workload so that they can provide advice and support where needed.
Create a culture where people feel comfortable about approaching their managers and openly discuss any problems or concerns they have about work.
Make sure senior management are visible
It’s a simple thing (and all the more difficult for that) but encouraging senior management to be visible at all levels of the business can also be a good way of encouraging engagement.
There’s always a risk that being too visible could lead to senior leaders being cornered by shop-floor workers with trivial complaints about lack of soap in the bathroom, but the chances are that if staff feel that they are being listened to by their line managers, they’ll see any interactions with senior management as an opportunity to shine not vent steam.
Conduct both annual and “pulse” surveys
Conducting regular workplace surveys is a good way of understanding where your company is and where it can improve. Technology enhancements mean that these don’t have to be time consuming to create, distribute or complete, but the data that they provide can be very useful, particularly when compared year-on-year.
It can also help you understand which members of your management and leadership team are particularly good at creating engaged team members, which can help inform discussions around pay review time.
Creating an engaged workforce that has less of a tendency to take unwarranted sickness absence can seem like a difficult task, but like many things in life, it starts by taking a few simple steps. Put the right polices in place and make some mild behaviour changes and you could quickly find an improvement in morale at all levels of the business. A happier workplace with a strong sense of community and purpose is one that people will want to come to, even when the warmth of a cosy duvet calls.