Absenteeism due to ill health has become a more concerning problem in recent years. As the adult population gets more overweight and unhealthy, companies can expect their workforces to suffer an increasing number of ailments and take more sick days.
However, business owners aren’t entirely powerless over this disturbing trend.
Causes and Effects of Absenteeism
People might take extensive time off of work for many health-related reasons. The most common are general feelings of stress and burnout rather than a specific illness. Heightened job responsibilities, long hours and other stressors might cause an employee’s attendance to decline.
Here are some other common reasons for worker absenteeism:
- Family health emergencies
- Non-work-related illnesses and injuries
- Poor workplace conditions
- Tense co-worker relationships
- Bullying or harassment
- Low job satisfaction
Workplace absenteeism has many adverse effects. In the short term, the company culture quickly disintegrates and everyone feels isolated. Morale plummets and job performance declines. In the long term, the company loses customers and suffers debilitating financial losses.
Although health has become a higher priority since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the average workplace is increasingly unhealthy. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, illness-related work absences jumped by 110% from 3.6 million to 7.8 million in January 2022 alone. Business owners need to take swift action to mitigate this problem.
1. Improve Working Conditions
The first item on every business’s to-do list should be to improve working conditions. This goal means a lot of different things for each industry. White-collar companies with traditional offices can start by investing in better desks and chairs to make employees more comfortable. Allow workers to adjust their desk arrangements to meet their preferences.
Office workers stay inside all day, so they could also use some fresh air. Every office building should have an outdoor hangout space such as a courtyard or garden to give the employees a reprieve from the indoors. Many businesses have also started emphasizing the importance of sunlight exposure and letting more natural light into the office.
Human-centric lighting is another workplace adjustment involving light. Instead of dealing with the same overbearing fluorescent lights, companies should install LED lights with different color and dimness settings. The workers can adjust the brightness throughout the day to protect their eyes and remain productive.
For more stressful jobs like trucking and construction, companies must set strict health guidelines for exercise and sleep. Since work environments in these professions tend to get dirty and disorganized, it’s also essential to disinfect frequently touched surfaces and equip the workers with personal protective equipment.
2. Embrace Schedule Flexibility
Flexible scheduling has been one of the few positive developments in the wake of COVID-19. Remote and hybrid schedules have become significantly more common as people are more concerned with establishing a healthy work/life balance. This change in priorities should help companies improve the health of their workforces.
Flexible work schedules promote employee wellness in several important ways:
- Reduced stress: The fast-paced office environment isn’t for everyone. Introverted personalities and people with anxiety disorders can work from home when they need to, giving them personal space and keeping their stress levels in check.
- Extra free time: Instead of wasting valuable time getting ready for work and taking the daily commute, employees can stay home and enjoy an extra hour of free time.
- Lower risk of illness: If an employee is feeling under the weather, they no longer have to skip work entirely. They have the option to work from home until they feel better instead of forcing themselves to come into work. This arrangement lowers the risk of an illness spreading through the workplace.
- Workplace customization: Working from home allows employees to customize their offices. They can add even more wellness-centric features, such as LED lights, new desks and chairs, and even ambient music to help them relax.
Of course, some positions require employees to stay in the office full-time. Aside from these exceptions, business owners should provide different schedule options and allow each employee to determine which working environment benefits their health the most.
3. Develop the Company Culture
From inside jokes to office happy hours, company culture plays a crucial role in maintaining morale and growing workplace relationships. Culture gives jobs the all-important human aspect that keeps people returning to work every day. The paycheck is one incentive, but camaraderie keeps people around for the long haul.
Along with a sense of belonging, the other essential ingredient of company culture is a sense of purpose. Each worker needs to know their role matters. If they don’t feel like they’re contributing to the business’s success, they might disengage and start missing work days.
These are some small but popular strategies for establishing a sense of purpose and building a company culture:
- Give employees shoutouts in meetings, on social media and in emails.
- Send them personalized messages for special occasions, such as birthdays and career milestones.
- Ensure ongoing learning with career development resources.
- Provide frequent feedback to prevent complacency from setting in.
- Constantly remind them how their job makes a difference in the company’s big picture.
Employees don’t get fulfillment solely from their paychecks — fulfillment comes from helping and connecting with other people, whether it’s co-workers or customers. Businesses need to build a culture to get their workers fully invested in the company’s growth.
4. Give Employees a Voice
When employees feel unheard, they’re more likely to ignore job responsibilities and look for opportunities to take sick days. Since nobody appreciates them at work, they figure nobody will care if they’re gone. That’s why it’s so important to give workers a voice. Without it, they feel isolated from their peers and their quality of work suffers.
Companies must be more empathetic towards their co-workers and clarify their individual needs. Executives and other office higher-ups should be more open to chatting with entry-level workers. The company hierarchy exists for a reason. Leaders have to lead and leadership starts with getting everyone to buy in, regardless of their roles in the organization.
Giving employees a voice also requires a change in priorities. Businesses must put worker well-being first and job performance second, not the other way around. People can only reach their full career potential if they’re mentally and physically healthy. Amplifying their voices is a huge part of monitoring their health.
5. Provide Fitness Resources
Another positive outcome of COVID-19 has been a resurgence in fitness activities, both virtual and in-person. Companies can provide many exercise resources in their buildings to promote active lifestyles.
Small fitness centers and snack bars are the two big ones many businesses have invested in. Workers can fit quick workouts into their schedules and stick to their diets without interfering with their job responsibilities. Wellness programs that educate employees about nutrition, exercise techniques and other healthy habits should also be a part of the ongoing learning process.
A Healthy Workplace Is a Successful Workplace
A healthy workplace is a successful workplace. Business leaders can start by implementing these five methods for promoting employee wellness, preventing illness and keeping them in the workplace where they belong.
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