Winter is here: Reducing the domino effect of workplace absences

Gemma O'Connor - Head of Service

November 10 2022

First published: 06/1/2022
Last updated: 14/11/2022

The winter season can be harsh for businesses, and calls for a greater acknowledgement of workplace wellbeing. There are winter-specific health and safety risks to consider together with increased absence levels as winter viruses spread throughout the working population.

Here, we’re focusing on ways to reduce the impact of winter-related absences on productivity and how promoting wellbeing in the workplace can lead to reduced absences.

By following these tips, you can ensure your business remains on track during an important trading period.

Focus on health & wellbeing

Workplace wellness goes a long way. You will find that staff appreciate even small efforts your business makes to allow them to focus on their health and wellbeing.  

Depending on the type of business you run, there is a myriad of ways to promote health and well-being.

Awareness campaigns

Poster or email campaigns can be used to promote the benefits of healthy eating, exercise and winter supplements, like Vitamin D.

Flu vaccination policies

Many employers permit staff paid time off to have flu vaccines. A workplace vaccination policy can be a useful tool in reducing absences caused by winter flu.

Employee Assistance Programme

An Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is a support service you can choose to provide for staff. An Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is a confidential service that allows employees to access supports with a range of physical and mental health issues. An EAP allows staff to access help with all sorts of problems whether they are personal or work-related. Introducing an Employee Assistance Programme has been found to reduce absence levels by as much as 45%.

Wellbeing perks

If you have the resources, you may also wish to offer staff perks like gym memberships or subscriptions to physical and mental health apps.   

Stress Management

The Christmas period can be a busy time for employees as end-of-year targets and Christmas preparations combine to stretch energy levels, and this can have a negative impact on an employee's mental health.

Research has found that stress leave days peak in the months before and after Christmas. To minimise the effects of exhaustion and anxiety on your staff, it is worthwhile to provide training to management on how to spot the signs of stress and what action to take to support staff who may be suffering with stress-related symptoms.

Keep your work from home policy 

At the outset of the pandemic, many employers introduced remote working policies almost overnight to minimise workplace-related transmission of COVID-19. Now that most employers have appropriate IT/communications infrastructure and remote working policies in place, it may be worthwhile reintroducing a work from home policy during the winter months.

Showing some flexibility on where employees work during the winter will have a number of benefits. You should suffer fewer absences, maintain productivity, reduce workplace infections and improve employee morale.    

Monitoring absence trends

The benefit of tracking employee absences is that you can identify if patterns are emerging. Is an employee missing Fridays and Mondays for instance? Or, is an employee failing to return from annual leave on the right days?

Monitoring absences and keeping records will help you spot patterns and give you some paperwork to refer to if you need to speak with an employee. A recurrent absence may be something an employee needs help with, so approach this situation with care. 

Return to work interviews

A proven way to reduce sickness absence is to hold ‘return to work’ interviews. This doesn’t need to be a formal conversation but it is a useful tool to discover if an employee has any personal or work-related issues that they need support with. You could discover that the employee does need support and by adjusting their work hours or allowing them to work from home, the issue can be resolved.

Absence management software

Our absence management app BrightHR is the perfect tool for tracking staff sickness days, attendance at work, and more. BrightHR allows you to:

  • Record an absence with ease and instantly spot when someone takes too much sick leave.
  • Scan fit notes, self-certification forms and hospital letters with your phone into your unlimited storage space.
  • Arrange cover and update senior staff or managers from anywhere.
  • Get push notifications to remind you to check how someone’s recovery is going, so you can prepare well in advance for when someone’s due back at work.

Book your free demo of BrightHR today to discover how it can benefit your business.

Looking for further advice on managing winter absences?

Our HR experts can help your business develop absence management policies and guide managers through the process of handling problem employee absenteeism. Call 1800 719 216 to speak with a Peninsula advisor today about any HR issues that are affecting your business.

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