Absenteeism costs the New Zealand economy a staggering $1.3 billion a year, says Alsco Community Outreach Manager Katrina McKinnon.
The Wellness in the Workplace Survey Report in 2013 found that was the cost of the six million-plus days of work that people missed due to different causes.
The same survey showed that manual workers take more days off than those that are non-manual.
It also found that employees in private sectors have less days off on average, but the costs are similar to those of the public sector.
Intriguingly, it seems the number of sick days taken increase with the size of a business.
If you want to prevent your business from being affected, you need to understand the causes of such behaviour and prevent them.
Some of the issues are obvious, such as keeping your workplace washroom in perfect condition to prevent the spread of bacteria and illnesses.
Others aren’t quite so obvious but generally the causes of absenteeism can be classified into two groups:
- those that have justified reasons that lie outside the working conditions
- those that originate from employee reluctance to come to the workplace.
However, let’s take a closer look at the main reasons for employee absence and suggest some ways you can prevent such occurrences and reduce costs for your business.
This is the most common reason of workplace absence, accounting for over 60 per cent of all sick days.
However, this doesn’t mean that this sickness hasn’t been contracted in the workplace – it simply means that it is not industry-related.
For example, it is quite possible that a person has been infected with a flu virus in their workplace.
However, this is still not a work-related sickness.
A work-related illness is one in which, for example, a person gets sick by inhaling the fumes that occur due to the fact that their job involves working with certain chemicals.
Therefore, you can help prevent these non-work-related illnesses by creating a safe and healthy workplace for your employees.
Your first step should be ensuring flawless workplace hygiene.
Dirty hands cause a lot of germs to be spread and they are the cause of many illnesses.
You cannot expect people to have clean hands if the washroom is not equipped with items such as hand sanitisers, dryers and similar devices.
The other reason why people don’t keep their hands and their workplace clean is much simpler – they forget!
When totally immersed in their own work, forgetfulness can happen to anybody.
You can prevent this by hanging useful workplace washroom hygiene posters.
Caring for a family member
This is the second most common reason for absenteeism.
While you cannot prevent this from happening, you can make sure that you reduce the impact in terms of productivity.
If you have one or several employees that have somebody at their home that need their full attention, figure out a way to give them the time they need at home with having a minimal effect on their work productivity.
Options include reducing their daily work hours. It is quite possible that they can be just as productive in six hours as they would be in eight hours of daily work when properly motivated.
Every time you can, offer those workers a chance to work from home or finish their work at home.
In this way, they will stay productive and their absence will not hurt the overall productivity of your business.
While you shoud do anything you can to prevent work-related injuries, those that happen outside your workplace aren’t your responsibility and therefore there is not much you can do about them.
However, those employees will have to stay home and get better.
If they have paid sick days, they should take them – but if they don’t consider the work from home options.
Sick days without being sick
This is a very tricky reason for using up sick days and it needs to be looked into thoroughly.
A large portion of people that excuse their absenteeism in this way are actually avoiding their workplace.
Instead of going for some sort of punishment immediately, try and find the cause of this type of behaviour.
For example, if your barista in a cafe doesn’t want to take up more shifts because their back hurt from all the standing, anti-fatigue mats that can solve this problem.
Similarly, if somebody is feeling bullied or disrespected at work you need to turn your workplace into a friendly environment.
Introducing workplace uniforms can also bring people together.
They boost team spirit and a sense of belonging, so they may just encourage employees to become more responsible with their attendance.
A lot of workplace accidents can be prevented.
In order to do your best and prevent work related injuries or illnesses, you need to meticulously follow the Health and Safety at Work Act regulations.
It contains extensive and detailed guidelines about what to do and how to act in order to prevent your employees from getting hurt or sick at work.
However, due to many factors, accidents still occur and you need to be prepared by having first aid kits well stocked, regularly inspected and properly distributed.
This doesn’t necessarily mean more work or more responsibilities.
Companies such as Alsco offer rental programmes – they bring, stock, check and restock all the first aid kits you may need.
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This article was originally published on alsco.co.nz.