Reducing absenteeism & sending National Sickie Day on its merry way!

There’s an abundance of national days in the UK and globally, and National Sickie Day is one of many that impact UK employers. Let’s be clear: National Sickie Day isn’t a call to action. Statistics show that it’s the day of the year when UK employees are most likely to call in sick. It’s just one day… right? Wrong. In 2020, around 600,000 workers called in sick on that ‘one day’, costing the UK economy almost £45 million in lost revenue! Read on to discover how we can reduce absenteeism in an employee-centric way.

600,000 people and £45 million in one day.

These are big numbers, especially when you consider some of the reasons for absenteeism, which history tells us range from the first hangover of the year for those who completed dry January to staying up late to watch the Super Bowl. The latter won’t be valid this year since the Super Bowl is on the 11th of February – FYI.

The stark reality is that absenteeism costs businesses and the economy billions yearly. That’s why, although we fully support employees taking the time they need off work when mental or physical illness strikes, we can’t get on board with taking advantage of the concept of National Sickie Day.

The great absenteeism debate

National Sickie Day creates an opportunity to debate some essential topics around absenteeism, which is on the rise.

The average rate of absenteeism per employee per year has increased from 5.8 in 2019 to 7.8 in 2023.

This rise = an increased cost to businesses and the economy when the cost of living and doing business is already high.

So, what exactly is causing the increase?

There are a few suspects, and at the top of the list are the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis.

With COVID still lingering, it makes sense that absenteeism would be higher since it’s a virus that affects people physically to varying degrees. So, why is the cost-of-living crisis also implicated?

The impact on our mental health – that’s why.

The unspoken truth behind rising absenteeism

It’s likely that some of your employees aren’t being honest with you. When they call in sick with a migraine, a bug or lingering flu, what many employees aren’t telling you is that they’re struggling with their mental health.

Don’t be offended. 

Only 2% of employees feel confident discussing their mental health with their employer.

The pandemic negatively impacted our mental wellbeing, not least the fact that those who struggled with their mental health didn’t receive adequate support because of the restrictions.

1 in 5 adults did not seek support during the pandemic because they didn’t think their problem was serious enough. MIND

A virus will leave your system after some time, often without medical intervention.

That’s not the case with mental ill health. 

Mental ill-health will likely worsen, becoming more debilitating over time if left untreated. Worse still, poor mental health can negatively impact our physical and financial health, sending us into a downward spiral.

This leads us to the cost-of-living crisis, which is increasing financial anxiety across the UK. Employees experiencing money worries cost the UK economy £120 billion and 17.5 million lost work hours.

Perhaps you’re wondering why the National Sickie Day debate has taken us so deep into the topic of mental health.

Here are two reasons:

  • The cost of mental health problems is equivalent to around 5% of the UK’s GDP, costing the UK economy at least £117.9 billion annually.
  • 63% of long-term sickness absence (over four weeks) is due to mental ill-health – higher than any physical illness.

We could talk about supporting mental and physical health all day, but there’s another area we need to discuss.

Here are some of our previous blogs that will help you reduce absenteeism through effective mental health support:

Ready to reduce illness by enhancing physical health? Read the blogs below for more:

Or perhaps your focus for 2024 is on reducing financial anxiety and helping to keep those money worries and lost time at bay:

Would you like to know another secret?

Not all cases of absenteeism are related to ill health at all.

Disengaged and unengaged employees have 37% higher absenteeism rates than engaged employees (Forbes).

Painting a picture of the disengaged and unengaged employee…

  • Does their job but isn’t passionate or loyal to the company.
  • Doesn’t participate in workplace events.
  • Doesn’t always work to the best of their ability.
  • Poor communication and time management.
  • Often late or absent.

This list isn’t exhaustive, but you’ll often find these traits in disengaged or unengaged employees. What’s helpful to know about disengaged and unengaged employees is that though they may be in the same place of engagement today, they weren’t always.

The unengaged employee comes to work to do their job and always has. However, once upon a time, the disengaged employee was engaged with your business, but their passion has since diminished.

There are many reasons for disengagement and un-engagement, from a poor cultural fit to a lack of developmental opportunities. Once you discover the issue, you can turn the situation around.

The common cause we want to tackle today is inadequate employee rewards since lack of recognition is one of the most effective ways to destroy motivation.

The power of employee rewards

The power of employee rewards is rooted in behavioural science, social psychology, and organisational theory, referring to an employer’s ability to influence behaviour and decisions through positive reinforcement and reward.

In the matter of engagement, employee rewards can reignite passion and loyalty. Recognising achievement and rewarding success is proven to help repeat those behaviours. It helps employees feel valued, more motivated and boosts engagement.

Higher employee engagement = less absenteeism

Employee rewards turn your employee experience around, but only if you get them right.

  • 50% of employees agree that receiving gratitude and recognition from management improves their relationships with company leaders (Eadion). 
  • 66% of employeeswould leave their roles if they felt unappreciated by their employer – that’s how vital recognition is in reducing the risk of high employee turnover rates.

Higher employee engagement = more productivity

Absenteeism is expensive, but so is the cost of replacing your talent. Disengaged and unengaged employees still perform, and it’s far cheaper to re-engage them than replace them.

Here’s another reason why rewards are so impactful… you can use them to make it easier for employees to enhance their physical and mental health!

Take our eVouchers, for example… 

Whether you’re issuing a reward as part of your recognition strategy, a workplace milestone, or a birthday, eVouchers are inclusive and flexible. With over 150 retailers to choose from, your people can decide how and where they want to spend their employee rewards.

They may desire a spa day, a meal out with friends, a trip away or new at-home gym equipment – and you can make all that and more affordable with an eVoucher.

“But they can do that with a cash bonus!” you say. 

It’s true. Still, the thing to remember about cash employee rewards is that the money goes directly into their bank account and can be swallowed by the monthly expenses. It helps, of course, but lessens the impact.

eVouchers make such memorable employee rewards because they must spend them with a specific retailer, and are more likely to use them for something that brings them joy.

How the reward makes your employees feel in the long term matters because it awakens gratitude. With gratitude comes motivation, loyalty, higher levels of engagement and the goal we’re trying to achieve… reducing absenteeism.

Let’s kick sickie days to the curb and see your people and business thrive!

We’ve established that there’s more to absenteeism than meets the eye, using National Sickie Day to keep employee mental health a top priority and help you think outside the box.

If you’re experiencing high levels of absenteeism in your business, then it pays to investigate the cause. It could be that your employees need some help adopting healthier lifestyle choices, reducing workplace stress, or support with their financial worries. It could also be due to low levels of employee engagement.

The key to discovering the cause is reviewing your current employee rewards strategy and creating a workplace survey to gather feedback.

Employee rewards and mental, financial, and physical health benefits form part of the solution to reducing absenteeism in your organisation. Our employee engagement consultants are just a click away and are happy to help you achieve your goals in 2024 and beyond.