The first Monday in February is known as ‘National Sickie Day’ in the UK. This day – February 6th this year – statistically sees the highest number of employees phoning in sick at work, with a 2014 poll by ITV finding that the cold, flu and food poisoning were the most common excuses despite 46% stating that the real reason for their absence was ‘feeling tired’.
With such a high volume of employees taking the day off work due to exhaustion on the same day, this can have a significant knock-on effect for businesses that depend on a relatively small number of staff to be able to remain productive. According to data from the CIPD, the average UK worker takes 6.3 sick days per year, costing employers as much as £522 per employee. However, employee mental health and wellbeing are important issues that shouldn’t be brushed aside, either.
“With employee burnout still remaining relatively high – with 46% of the UK workforce at risk of burnout, alongside seasonal depression during the winter months – it’s not necessarily surprising to see that many are choosing to take time off work, rather than being open about their mental health.
“Whilst it is unfortunate to see that so many employees are resorting to taking time off due to feeling overwhelmed by work fatigue, this can also prove to be a problem for businesses that depend on having a certain number of staff at work.
“Employee morale tends to be lower during the post-Christmas period due to a combination of a reluctance to return to a work routine after the holidays, the darker weather, and the uncertainties of a new work year.
“Of course, some absences will be inevitable due to seasonal illness. However, during this time particularly, businesses should aim to work in tandem with employees to support their mental wellbeing and prevent excessive absences.”
To help business leaders curb the National Sickie Day trend, Connor has shared the following tips:
Invite employees to a back-to-work check-in
Although the Christmas shut-down is a while behind us, it’s not too late to invite employees for an informal ‘back-to-work’ check-in to establish how they’re feeling about work and what they would like to see implemented during the year to make their work life easier. This conversation doesn’t necessarily have to be overly formal or lengthy, but should provide employees with the opportunity to voice their concerns, opinions, and suggestions in a non-judgemental environment.
Feedback obtained during these conversations can then be utilised to make improvements within the workplace to make employees feel more comfortable and content.
Make the office more comfortable
Alongside determining which changes should be made in terms of workload and structure, physical changes within the office can make a big difference to employee motivation and comfort-levels.
During the winter months, the office should be a comfortable place that employees are happy to travel into. Simple changes, such as providing blankets at desks, seating areas such as sofas with soft cushions, and warm-lighting in desk lamps can all help to encourage employees to enjoy being in the workplace.
Offer wellbeing initiatives
Some companies have dedicated wellbeing leads who are available to employees to help them with any personal problems they may be having. Investing in training for employees who can help others alongside their own job can be a good way to ensure there is a support network setup in the workplace.
Another alternative is to look at external training providers who can offer advice to employees on how to manage difficult situations. Some providers offer 24/7 support at the end of a phone, so offering this to employees may be a good way to support them if they need somebody to speak to outside of work.