As businesses emerge from and adjust to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, now is the perfect time to review practices and address issues to maximise productivity and performance.
One of the most important aspects of maintaining high performance is minimising and managing staff absence. In this article, we’ll run through the dangers of having an unhappy or unwell workforce, examine how to deal with absences and explain how workforce management software can help you deal with staff absence.
What are the Effects of Staff Absence?
Staff absence can severely disrupt business productivity and profit in several ways. The first of these is obvious: the absent worker cannot do their job so tasks go uncompleted and deadlines are missed.
This has a knock-on effect on other workers who must adjust to cover the extra work of their absent colleague. This can cause delays to other projects, as workers have to take time out to cover the extra work, and can lead to increased costs if these workers are paid overtime.
It can also have a negative impact on the overall workplace, as other employees become more likely to suffer from stress and burnout under their increased workloads.
Still, there are some positive signs. According to the Office for National Statistics: 14% of sickness absences in 2020 were related to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, overall sickness absences actually declined during 2020, reaching 1.8% – their lowest level since 1995. This is likely due to the positive effects of more flexible working schemes.
These statistics suggest that, while staff absence can be a big problem, it is one that businesses have the tools to deal with, with things like flexible working and working from home contributing to lower absence rates overall.
What Can I Do About Staff Absence?
As with many things in business, solving the problem of staff absence first requires understanding it. This means getting clear, reliable data on which employees are absent when and for what reasons – as we’ll see below, workforce management software can be a major help here. Once you have the data, you can consider how to resolve the issue.
Some level of absence is, of course, unavoidable: illnesses and injuries happen, and it is not the job of employers to prevent their workers ever becoming unwell, even if such a thing were possible. There are some things that can be done, however.
Firstly, if workers are going absent due to psychological issues like workplace stress, you can reduce the pressure on them by adjusting the workplace to better suit their needs. Even something like having a cleaner, tidier workplace can significantly boost productivity.
Overall, though, you need to develop an absence management policy that works for you. This should include:
- Terms of contractual sick pay and details on when statutory sick pay starts
- Clear provisions on when, how and who employees should notify when they will be absent
- Details on any tracking systems, requirements for doctor’s notes and so on
- Clear return-to-work provisions
In addition, you should make sure to include general rules for how to handle disruption when it inevitably occurs. Having clear procedures for how to allocate additional work, for instance, can go a long way to minimising the negative impact of staff absence.
How Can Workforce Management Software Help?
Workforce management software can provide the tools your business needs to assess and respond to staff absence. By gathering data on employee absence, workforce management software provides benefits such as:
- Safeguarding your business by enabling you to better respond to absences
- Helping you identify and understand absence trends
- Allowing managers to target interventions by identifying workers who are frequently absent
Workforce management software helps you achieve these outcomes by providing detailed information on your workers’ presence and performance. This provides a strong basis for developing a workforce absence policy, as it gives you a far clearer vision of how performance and productivity are affected by absence.
Staff absence can be a serious problem, but not one that is insurmountable. With the help of workplace management software, businesses can identify issues as they arise and develop robust practices to both reduce absences and deal with them when they occur. At a time when the future of work appears so uncertain, developing these processes could be crucial to your business’ success.
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