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Brightside · Waterlooville · UK  England · Hampshire ·  PO7 7BA
07533 606333 karen@karenwilliamstherapy.com
What is Sickness Absence Costing your Business?

What is Sickness Absence Costing your Business?

 

A fresh approach to achieving amazing Mental Health.

As most of us know in business today, if you look after your staff, the business will virtually look after itself. What does this actually mean though for businesses when everyone seems to be focused on increased margins and profits and chasing the money? Do employers really stop to think about the well-being of their staff who deliver these financial targets or do they pay lip service to their responsibility towards them and just expect more and more? Increased work loads, cutting back on headcount can lead to having to part company with good workers when the pressure becomes too much for them to bear.

By simply analysing workplace culture and introducing a well-being product that actually realises a return on investment will help retain the workforce and reduce absence costs. Employees who feel valued and cared for are more likely to look after and help build the business rather than go off sick at the first signs of stress. I remember when magazine articles used to comment on how a certain amount of pressure at work spurs employees on to perform better. These days articles seem to have substituted the word pressure for stress. How many times have you seen a doctor’s fit-note citing ‘work related stress’ as the reason for absence? This reason seems to becoming more and more common. Stress is never good for either the employee or the employer. As an employer there is an expected duty of care to look after the well-being of all staff who have the right to work in a safe and healthy environment.

What is sickness absence costing your company each year?

To calculate the lost time rate, divide the total absence in hours or days in the chosen period by the possible total in hours or days in that period, then multiply by 100. (Where a period in this example is 1 year, 261 working days per year, working 7.5 hours per day).

For instance, take a total absence of 120 hours in a possible 1958 total hours available in that period, the lost time rate is: 120/1958 x 100 = 6% (rounded to the nearest 0.5%)

Your business assessment: Lost time / Hours available x 100 = %

What does sickness absence cost the UK each year?

According to the (Office for National Statistics Labour Force Survey Report 2014), the top reason for absence in the UK was Musculoskeletal (neck and back problems); which in an office environment can be attributed to employees who work long hours in sedentary jobs, who spend too much time at their keyboard, hunched over a laptop, or who are spending a high percentage of their day on the phone without the use of a headset. Manual workers can incur musculoskeletal issues due to a number of reasons related to the physicality of their role. Second was due to cough/colds; which can begin to be addressed if employers avoid the need for presenteeism at work as this encourages individuals to attend work and spread their viruses among healthy workers. Presenteeism also reduces an individuals immune system when they are tired and makes them more susceptible to viruses. Thirdly and now notably on the rise was stress, anxiety and depression among the workforce.

The (CIPD 2016) Absence Management survey noted the top 3 reasons for stress at work was due primarily to workload caused by less funding, less staff and an increase in workload as a result. The second reason for stress was due to home pressures which individuals were experiencing and bringing into the work place which can affect productivity and attendance. Thirdly was management style where line managers were not effectively managing absence or the needs of their staff. Sound familiar?

The UK’s largest annual survey of sickness absence rates and costs shows that sickness absence was an average of 2.8% of working time per annum, or 6.5 days per employee, during 2014 (Personnel Today 2015). Calculated at an average UK salary of £27,531 (Metro Nov 2015) amounts to £3,441 per employee per year. Bearing in mind some individuals have great attendance and zero sickness whilst others can be off work for weeks if not months at a time. Therefore it is key to act swiftly and deal with absence by offering help as quickly as possible to identify what can be done to support an employee and to give them the tools to enable them to return to work.

These figures do not include the cost to back fill individuals, this is usually achieved via temporary employment agencies who charge around 15% to 23% for placement fees and/or overtime offered to other staff members. The employer is in effect paying out twice for the one role, paying sickness absence pay to the employee and wages to the replacement temp or in overtime. Lost productivity is usually experienced as temporary workers generally do not ‘hit the ground running’ and will require support from other team members who end up feeling stretched and somewhat stressed too having to buddy up and train new workers. Here we see the domino effect absence has on other staff members who are left trying to ‘plug the gap’ whilst their work colleagues are absent from work. This adds to other team members already busy schedule and results in workload stress which can cause anxiety, panic and feelings of not being able to cope with the additional pressure piled upon them. This in turn affects the teams overall sense of well being, morale, can cause resentment and makes them question whether they feel valued and cared for when they are left holding the fort. Ultimately if left unmanaged it can lead to individuals feeling exhausted, burnt out and seeking work elsewhere as well as going to their GP and being signed off long term sick with ‘work related stress’.

Where to start? Recruitment and Retention

Retaining and looking after staff is far more worthwhile and cost effective than bringing on-board new starters incurring additional recruitment costs, re-investing in training and inevitably experiencing a downturn in productivity whilst new recruits usually take 6-9 months maybe even 12 months to become fully effective. During this time other team members are picking up the slack as well as their own work, being put under more pressure which affects their health and work-life balance. Does this sound familiar? If so, then it’s time to start by investing in retaining existing staff before it is too late.

Employers can begin by looking at their culture and identifying what drives individuals ways of working. Is there an expectation placed on individuals to be ‘present’ even when unwell, are they expected to work long hours and not take annual leave, to take work home with them, to log-on and attend to emails at the weekend? By identifying and acknowledging what drivers are influencing workers resiliency and ability to be emotionally well at work this will enable employers to focus on key aspects for improving and addressing poor working practices. At the same time ensuring individuals have the correct support in place to manage the demands placed upon them.

An anonymised Staff Survey or Health Risk Assessment for all staff not just employees will identify such drivers. The results will enable a support program to be put into effect to address the key issues required to support mental health and the emotional needs of individuals, so they stay healthy and deliver the results the business is looking for.

Standard offerings in Corporate Well-being Programmes

Most employers have some kind of Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) which usually offers general advice to employees and counselling services. The counselling service tends to offer between 3 to 6 sessions, any more than this usually gets billed to the organisation as an additional cost. Or the employee is referred on to their GP for counselling only to find themselves having to join a waiting list for alternative or complimentary therapies.

EAPs provide analytics to the employer of percentage take-up. However from my own personal experience of such offerings, the success rates are not as high as one would hope for. Having worked in the world of Corporate HR for many years alongside employees and managers supporting return to work plans, the outcomes are not always as effective or as swift as both parties would like. The employee is responsible for their own referral and does not always take up the offer as they see it as too impersonal, preferring to talk to family and friends about their concerns. The employer will have already invested in and signed up on a contractual basis for the EAP hoping it will have the desired effect but not really knowing if they are getting value for money in return. The best they can hope for is that the individual does take up the offer of support and returns to work to resume their normal duties and are able to sustain their attendance.

A fresh approach to achieving Amazing Mental Health

If the above sounds familiar, perhaps it is time for employers to truly demonstrate their duty of care towards their employees and to listen to what their staff say they need? Maybe it is time to change the tick box approach to staff well-being and instead do something different?

Having discussed this topic with like minded therapists, HR colleagues and drawing upon my own knowledge and experience of the Corporate world of HR and employee relations, employers should look to:

1) Design and act upon a Staff Survey and Health Assessment, conducting periodic reviews and follow-up actions to ensure ideas and actions stay fresh

2) Design a bespoke Workplace Well-being Support Scheme which could include:

  • Offering Rapid Transformational Therapy (RTT) to enable staff to become more resilient, calm and confident in themselves
  • Drop in sessions for mindfulness during working hours; working with the breath
  • In-house sessions for learning coping strategies and how and when to deploy them
  • To provide break out areas for staff to retreat to rather than the smoking shelter
  • Provide time out for relaxation using techniques such as; simple Tai Chi or Yoga moves at the start or end of each day
  • Re-education of what to eat, what not to eat combined with workplace exercise; basic stretches to do when not sat at your desk

With Rapid Transformational Therapy individuals can:

  • Improve resilience
  • Create indestructible self-belief
  • Gain phenomenal coping skills
  • Address and manage stress, anxiety, overwhelm and depression
  • Speak in public more easily and with confidence
  • Improve presentation skills
  • Increase their sales performance
  • Beat addictions such as smoking/vaping, alcohol, gambling, compulsive shopping. They can also reduce their reliance on social media and smartphones
  • Lose weight and notice how they choose to eat more healthily and want to take exercise
  • Improve their management and leadership skills and abilities

After all, most employers still turn a blind eye to staff who want to take a smoking break even if vaping seems to be an alternative to the real thing these days. The intention is to de-stress, regain calm and focus the mind. I used to smoke, so I understand the addiction, that was until I was hypnotised to stop and I never smoked again.

What about employees who do not smoke and who do not take several breaks a day and who rarely leave their workstations, even to get a drink? Surely they deserve to be supported, to be able to regain a sense of well-being and press the reset button, recharge their batteries and to be healthier and happier in work?

What better way to do it than by giving employees a more tangible, healthy approach to being in work and in control. To be able to at least consider if they want to take on board some of the above suggestions should their employer be willing to offer their employees an opportunity to be the best version of themselves. Knowing their employer is willing to invest in their mental and physical well-being goes a long way with staff and will help to create loyalty and improve retention. We all need to feel connected and appreciated especially when in the workplace but will employers be willing to stop the tick box exercises and to do something more meaningful for their staff and for themselves? Now is the time for change. For further information Click here!

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