Managing Absence

managing absenceHow equipped are you at managing absence?

In 2016 34 million working days were lost through absence, more than 8 days per employee per year.

It is currently estimated that absence costs the UK economy around £18 billion pounds per year, the equivalent of more than 10% of the NHS budget and a third of the profits of FTSE 100 companies.

This makes managing absence a real issue for most organisations, but are your managers and team leaders equipped for these delicate conversations?

Do you have a Health and Wellbeing strategy to help employees remain fit, active and able?

Different working environments have different impacts but whether you are office or driving based,  so much work is sedentary, and Dr Lee Graves and his team from Liverpool John Moores University are undertaking some interesting research into the effects of sitting on wellbeing in office environment, which he talked to Call Centre Leaders about at Call North West’s first Call Centre Leaders Convention in December 2017. Will walking meetings become a norm?

How is absence managed in your organisation?

Do you have systems and procedures which help the employee and help manage absence so that it does not affect you operationally. As I type, there is a report of only one Air Traffic Controller being on duty at Gatwick airport because of unexpected illness with other controllers.

Health and Wellbeing is becoming more important to employers, who are also thinking about managing absence compassionately and appropriately.

FirstCare is a company that helps its clients manage absence, either by using its software built around good practice, or its contact centre facility where employees reporting sickness are able to speak with trained nurses who can give advice about their illness. Given the amount of time we have to wait to get a doctor’s appointment this is both helpful for employees and also gives managers a real understanding of the amount of time before that employee will return to work. That information is invaluable in planning around absence.

FirstCare have several papers to help organisations think about absence, and how to manage it appropriately. Their insight across a number of industries shows that

  • Half of sickness in the transport industry is caused by long term illness
  • In construction and engineering, surgery was the second most common reason
  • Mental health problems were the main absence reason for local authority staff

FirstCare report a number of key factors that organisations need to be aware of

  • An ageing population, the median employment age is now 40, this increase comes with a concomitant increase in musculo-skeletal injuries and general aches and pains. A general decline in levels of fitness caused by poor diet and a more sedentary lifestyle are probably a contributory factor here.
  • Millenials ( a term that has now acquired a fair degree of baggage ) tend to see work as short term and show less commitment to their employer. They change jobs with more frequency than settled employment patterns of the past.  Interestingly Generation Z, the next cohort currently emerging from schools, raised during the crisis following the 2008 financial crash are said to be more like baby boomers, showing a greater degree of commitment,  self-reliance and entrepreneurship.
  • Mental health issues. This issue is currently being highlighted, with high profile campaigns and stories appearing in the press on a regular basis. There are of course highly stressful jobs and working environments, but it is very difficult for an employer other than where a person is clinically diagnosed or is showing clear signs of stress, to see the consequences of this or indeed to distinguish it from the normal pressures of life and work.

These are factors that require planning and consideration and in our next blog post we will consider how we can address these key areas.