pulling a sickieWe’ve all done it – whether it’s due to a drizzly, grey morning, or a restless night’s sleep, pulling a sickie is something we’re definitely not a stranger to.

While there certainly may be days where it’s genuinely best to stay at home, rather than infecting colleagues, there might be other days when someone just can’t face coming into work. There’s even a Blue Monday in January and a National Sickie Day at the beginning of February which sees the most number of people calling in sick…

But maybe there’s something a company can do to lessen that ‘Monday morning feeling’ – after all, unhappy workers can harm overall productivity and influence the behaviour of other staff members.

1. Employee Morale

Do you measure satisfaction within your organisation? How visible is the CEO, or the leadership team? Are you investing in the well-being of your staff? People aren’t just looking for a good salary any more: development, a good pension and a caring environment are all becoming top priorities for job hunters. Put simply, if an employee doesn’t feel supported at work, there’s a good chance that their performance will be affected and they’re more likely to leave – giving you the costly task of replacing them.

It wouldn’t take much to implement some morale boosting initiatives to get your workers ready for the day ahead at the office…

Work Perks:  Do you have a strict dress-code you can relax on some days? Maybe your company could introduce free or subsidised educational courses to develop skills. You could even work on partnerships with leisure companies to negotiate monthly cinema or theatre trips employees can take part in. A monthly game or contest to win a weekend away or popular gadget could get people in the competitive spirit.

Company Culture: There may be members of staff who have only seen their CEO through official communications or on the company intranet. It’s important for many people to feel like they’re not just a cog in a business’s machine – encouraging collaborative working and regular feedback could have a hugely positive effect on staff if it’s communicated from the top down. Being able to speak honestly with members of higher management could do wonders for engagement. Consider the latest HR systems for reminders of appraisals and reviews.

Reward and Recognition: Many workers don’t do their job purely for recognition, but if someone’s gone above and beyond for their employer, overlooking it could be a mistake. Line managers need to get to know their individual team members so they understand how they like to be rewarded. So while some may be happy with an office-wide email praising them publicly, others might just be happy with a few words of thanks from their boss. Especially during busier periods, make sure you’re recognising their hard work and showing your appreciation regularly to keep up spirits.

Office Space: You might not have a lot to work with in your current digs, but there are a few things that can be done to ensure your staff aren’t coming in everyday to drab and painfully corporate environment. Perhaps create more relaxed areas for informal meetings, or just a creative space for a little inspiration during the working day. Are employees free to personalise their own desk space? A few custom touches to their workspace could help them feel more at home.

2. Mental Health

It’s easy to blame a member of staff’s low mood on the weather and shorter days in the winter, but while Seasonal Affective Disorder is a genuine condition, it could be the sign of a deeper mental illness. If someone is calling in sick more and more and you know it to be out of character, perhaps it’s time to intervene. The line manager-employee relationship is crucial in identifying if there’s a problem. Training and education for management could make the difference between someone struggling and someone going off on long-term sick. So while calling in on the first Monday of February may not be anything to worry about, has the employee shown signs of stress and burnout prior to this?

3. Financial Advice

There may be periods in the year where employees need help getting back on their feet. Credit cards can really take a beating around Christmas and during the summer holidays. And a recent revelation from Facebook showed how many young people talk about money and debt worries on the social network.

So what can an employer do to help? Offering an impartial financial advice service can give employees somewhere to turn. Sometimes, people are so overwhelmed, they really don’t know where to start. Many Employee Assistance Programmes offer this as part of their package, so if you already have one, make sure you’re communicating it properly to your company.

4. Health and Fitness

Of course, the summer is a great time to ramp up your exercise regime. But some people might struggle with getting started, or feel uncomfortable going to a new gym alone – especially if they’ve been out of the fitness game for a while. A lack of exercise, however, and a poor diet can affect energy levels and stamina throughout the day.

While a company can’t take full responsibility for an employee’s health and fitness, a few things, like a free fruit and veg basket, or healthier options in the canteen can certainly help. Maybe there’s a local gym that could offer your company cut-price memberships, so colleagues can join together? Or perhaps a nutritionist can run on-site sessions to develop healthy eating plans with staff.

5. Flexible Working

On the days where you don’t have an important client meeting, or have things to sort out with colleagues, is it really imperative to be in the office? A usual morning might consist of getting changed into the same constricting suit, before sitting in the same seven miles of commuter traffic, or standing on a crowded platform watching helplessly as your train gets delayed or cancelled. Your journey home isn’t much better and you know tomorrow will involve more of the same.

So why not give your employees a chance to work from home. Measuring performance on output, rather than hours spent in the office can also help to show your staff that you trust them. Many people feel they have fewer distractions at home – they can start earlier and probably work harder at their optimal point during the day. It could even make a world of difference to their general work/life balance.

People will always want an extra duvet day and maybe you already have a fantastically motivational culture, but it’s surely worth trying different things. Your employees are all individuals, from a variety of backgrounds and the age range may be huge. If you recognise the diverse needs and values, it can certainly help to create a very enviable and aspiring culture.

This article has been provided by the team at Unum UK.

You can read more articles about absence management and employee engagement on the Cezanne HR blog

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Cezanne HR

Cezanne HR is a leading provider of cloud-based HR software solutions, designed for medium and small-sized organisations - especially those with global workforces.