Cup of tea and tissue box for sick days

Sick or Stressed: Absenteeism in the Office

Sick or Stressed: Absenteeism in the Office

Posted on November 2019 By Nicholas Farley

Cup of tea and tissue box for sick days

Absenteeism - the practice of regularly staying away from work or school without good reason.

According to a survey by the BBC, findings show that 40% of adults are prepared to take a day off sick simply because they want a day off work.

The results also found that 30% of those asked would fake a Doctors appointment, and 66% would not tell their manager if they knew a teammate was off but wasn’t sick.

Research from HR Advance, a human resource consultancy based out of Sydney, found that the average employee takes 9.7 sick days per year, with 9.5 days in the private sector and 11.4 days in the public sector.

The study shows that these sick days have a number of repercussions on their business and the Australian economy as a whole. On average, annually each organization will pay out $3608 per employee in wages whilst they are absent. This leads to a reduction of $44 billion into the Australian economy per year from this issue alone.

The main causes given for short-term absences found in this study were minor illnesses, family/carer responsibilities, recurring conditions such as asthma and allergies and mental health conditions.

If the employee does not have a transparent relationship with their manager or fear their real reason for taking a sick day may lead to being judged by their colleagues, suggests why the temptation to lie may be too big to resist.

Speaking on this issue, Julian Cox, Head of Employment at iLaw, said: “Tackling sickie culture is important due to the cost, disruption and lack of productivity it creates but if a company is experiencing a significant number of sick days, then they may need to evaluate the work environment to remove the toxicity that leads to ‘sickies.’”

However, absenteeism is only part of the challenges businesses should address. Presenteeism, the practice of being in work when you shouldn’t be, can often be overlooked. According to a CIPD report, 86% of those questioned said they had observed presenteeism in the workplace over the last 12 months.

The Marketing and Advertising industry is rife with employees not taking their full holiday entitlements. Employees who come into work when they are sick, or work more hours than they are required too because they do not feel comfortable sharing their workload, can have just as much of a negative effect on productivity as absenteeism.

Thankfully, there are things businesses can do to help combat the levels of their workplace absenteeism and presenteeism. Encouraging staff to take a full lunch break, instilling an open dialogue culture, promoting a strong work-life balance and offering flexible working are all key to inspire a healthy, honest and happy workplace.

Stopgap has noticed a shift in the practices of a lot of the clients we work with, with much more of an emphasis on employee wellbeing and job satisfaction as there was 3 – 5 years ago. It seems that hiring managers are working to rectify the problems of absenteeism and presenteeism.

It is rare we get a brief that doesn’t offer some sort of flexible working arrangement. We also strongly suggest the importance to the clients we work with that do not currently offer these benefits. For candidates, an organization that does not show some flexibility to work around their employee’s requirements can be the deciding factor on whether or not they take the role. 

However, flexible working is not the only reason why these problems persist. Toxic work environments and poor workplace wellbeing should also be addressed. Offering proper and genuine support to people suffering from mental health problems, and support in other areas of life like financial planning are ways to boost your businesses employee wellbeing.

As a hiring manager, if you can promote your organisations' emphasis on employee wellbeing and job satisfaction, you will attract top talent in a candidate-driven market.

If you are representing a business that needs advice on how to put this in to practice, or you are a candidate who is looking to move to a business who demonstrates these values, get in touch!