How Flexible Working Options Can Reduce Staff Absences

Research published by the Office for National Statistics have shown that 137.3 million working days were lost due to sickness or injury in the UK in 2016. Employee absenteeism is something that’s to be expected in every workplace but it can be indicative of a larger problem with low staff morale. In either case, the effects it has on the overall wellbeing of an organisation and its employees are worth countering.

One method that can be used to reduce absences in the workplace is flexible working. There are several causes of absenteeism that flexible working can do a good job of preventing, here are four of the best examples.

Causes of absenteeism and how flexible working can help

Illness and injury

Illness and injury are understandable and legitimate causes for staff absences. Even the healthiest employees have days off sick occasionally, as there is no way to avoid some illnesses. However, not every illness or injury has to result in a complete loss of productivity.

Allowing employees to work more flexibly can help you to minimise the effects these types of absences have on your business, while also giving employees less anxiety about being ill. This can be achieved using either a remote working scheme that means they can stay at home and work if they’re feeling ill, or by offering a flexitime system where lost hours can be made up on another day.

Low morale

When employees feel unmotivated, underappreciated, or otherwise disengaged with their workplace, they are more inclined to take absences for non-valid reasons. Their reasons for losing motivation might not always be directly related to the workplace, but they can often be due to a perceived lack of work-life balance.

Flexible working options are a good way of making employees feel more valued within an organisation, plus it can give them back some control over their work-life balance. Remote working especially can mean that employees no longer have to miss things in their personal life due to the constraints of a workplace location.

Stress/mental health conditions

A general lack of understanding and acceptance of mental health conditions in the workplace is causing a rift between employers and employees. Mental health is becoming more and more prevalent, with research showing 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem in a given year.

One way for employers to help their employees through mental health conditions is to allow approved mental health days – absences that are sympathetic to employees and allow them to stay at home. Remote working may still be possible on these days, depending on the severity of the employee’s condition, cutting down on lost productivity.

Mental health education in the workplace and trauma and absence management services can also be highly useful in assisting employees with mental health conditions to deal with the effects.

Personal Events

A final reason why employees might call in sick is if they have somewhere to be at some point during the day and don’t feel as though their workplace is flexible enough to allow them to make it. This can be solved very easily with a flexitime system where employees are offered the chance to take extended lunches, start late, or finish early on occasion.

This can not only decrease absenteeism in the workplace, but also have a noticeable positive impact on staff morale as employees feel as though their external commitments and requirements are being understood by their employer.

Adam Torkildson