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Why are your people off work? And what can you do?

According to a recent survey, 57% of workers have rung in sick within the last 3 years, despite not being sick. But why? And what can you do about it?

By and large, the data seems to agree: ‘minor’ ailments (colds, flu, minor back and muscle pain, stomache upsets) account for the majority of short term sick absence, whilst acute medical conditions, mental ill health and muscoloskeletal injuries are chiefly responsible for longer term absence.

Yet research by Timeware shows that 57% of workers have rung in sick in the past 3 years, despite not actually being sick at all. The report doesn’t quantify precisely how many days this equated to, nor does it clarify exactly how many of these days could be attributed to a ‘can’t be bothered and just fancied a duvet day’ attitude, compared with more serious underlying issues.

It does, however, identify many causes of non-sick related absence – ranging from childcare issues to relationship problems, hangovers and problems at work – that could have resulted in ‘throwing a sickie’ seeming like the preferable option to telling the truth.

The problem for business is that, unless an individual is required to produce a doctor’s note (something that tends not to happen in the case of short term absence) it can be difficult to tell the difference between genuine minor illness and issues that really need addressing. That’s where absence management software can help.

Understanding absence patterns

Trends and patterns can be difficult to spot without a system to help you. That’s one of the immediate benefits of an absence management system. Not only can it help you manage annual leave more efficiently, it can also identify short term ‘sick absence’ that isn’t really sick absence at all.

Take the example of a member of staff who has encountered childcare problems. Rather than raise the issue with you, they’ve started taking every third Monday off as sick. Without a system to help you spot the pattern, it could take months to identify the issue. With absence management software, you can identify the issue quickly and deal with it. Not only do you get the opportunity to resolve the issue to everyone’s satisfaction, you reduce your sick absence figures and improve the goodwill of a member of staff.

Understand costs

Without effective monitoring it’s easy for short term absence to become lost in the broader picture. When that happens, you’re unlikely to make reducing short term absence a priority.

Absence management software shows you the cost of absence to your business, highlighting its importance, rather than sweeping it under the carpet.

Policy prompts

When was the last time you revisited your absence management policies? Effective absence management – that is, absence management that works for your people and your business – relies on agile policies that respond to evolving circumstances, so everyone knows their rights and responsibilities.

But unless you can see how absence is changing and evolving within your business, your policies can’t hope to keep pace. Absence management software can help ensure that the polices your business adopts to manage absence are fit for the issues it faces.

Tackling the big issues

No matter how approachable your leaders and HR people are, there’s some information employees may not wish to share.

Absence management software can provide the raw data that sparks conversation. Stress, anxiety, relationship issues, mental helth problems, workplace bullying – they can all be revealed and addressed when empathetic managers have absence management software that helps them manage better.

Changing the way you work

The patterns your absence management system reveals can help inform the way you run your business. When, for example, childcare issues are continually identified as reasons for needing leave, could changing shifts, remote home-working or switching to flexible working help reduce the impact of those issues?

Big Brother?

Absence management isn’t always seen as a benefit. The Timeware report suggested 35% of workers felt it could be too invasive. Yet more than half of workers see its value – in terms of productivity and in ensuring everyone pulls their weight.

The key to ensuring your workforce sees absence management in a positive light seems not to be a system-based issue, but more a question of how you use it. Creating a supportive, positive working culture that uses absence management as a tool to improve rather than a stick to beat improves absenteeism whilst avoiding the ‘Big Brother’ paranoia inherent in some absence management measures.

Combining this positive approach with extra holidays or rewards for exceptional attendance records can help to motivate and engage employees, and build a prevention rather than cure culture.

The result? More openness. Less absenteeism. Improved processes. And benefits that impact the bottom line. Turn absenteeism in your business into a positive. Talk to Addtime about absence management systems.

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