Every organisation needs to manage staff absence, and there is a great deal that they can do to facilitate this.
Effective absence management: the essentials
In order to reduce absence in the workplace it’s essential to have a well-written absence policy along with trained and competent line managers who are able to implement clearly communicated standards and effective processes.
This should be combined with specialist support in managing long term health conditions and the analysis of absence data; together these are the foundations through which absence can be managed – and reduced.
But it’s important to not only manage absence but to consider attendance holistically. In addition to focusing on reducing absence, organisations can also support health and attendance at work through proactively enabling the wellbeing of the people that work for them.
Absence management and wellbeing
In 2008, the New Economics Foundation undertook extensive research into wellbeing; they considered just what is it that makes people both feel good and function well in their lives and their work, with a view to identifying real and practical actions that individuals and organisations can take.
The five ways to wellbeing
The research established that there are ‘five ways to wellbeing’ – five activities that people can build into their daily lives to support their wellbeing. They found that whilst there are many factors that influence wellbeing, deliberate actions can make a real difference to how people feel. The five ways to wellbeing developed from the research are:
Connecting is about developing connections with other people – friends, family and colleagues or in the community. Connections at work support a sense of belonging and enhance the employee experience.
Giving to others, even by simply doing something nice for another person, enhances happiness, positive feelings and self-worth.
Regular physical activity is associated with a greater sense of well-being and lower rates of depression and anxiety. Being active is simply about building regular activity into daily life.
Taking notice is about being aware of the world, noticing what is positive and savouring the moment.
Keep learning reflects the benefits to confidence, self-esteem and positive life experiences of learning new things.
By deliberately creating opportunities for employees to experience the five ways through their work and working lives, an organisation can enhance the day to day wellbeing of the people that work for them.
Using the five ways to help manage absence
The starting point for enabling the five ways lies with line managers. It’s crucial that they understand there is more to their responsibilities in managing absence and enabling attendance than completing return to work interviews and monitoring triggers. Awareness raising and training can help them understand their role and how they can add value through supporting wellbeing.
It’s possible to start introducing the five ways, and wellbeing in general, though small actions. Here are some examples:
- Encourage teams to get together on a regular basis, even if it’s just for coffee or lunch, without the pressure of a work based agenda.
- Seize the small opportunities to connect people.
- Promote physical activity and create space for this in the working day.
- Introduce a lunchtime walking group. It’s free, simple and helps people recharge by getting away from their desks.
- Provide regular learning and development opportunities – and not just those that relate to day to day tasks.
- Find ways in which employees can give back, either to colleagues or their local communities.
- Help people to reflect on their work and recognise team and individual success.
- Notice what is going well and say it out loud.
As you can see, it’s easy to start introducing the five ways in the workplace.
Wellbeing at work is a shared responsibility; employee, manager and organisation. Small changes can make a big difference – so why not introduce some new ways to wellbeing where you work, today?
About the author
Gemma Dale is an experienced HR Director, a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD, and also a regular speaker and writer on a variety of HR topics, including employee engagement and social media. She currently runs The Work Consultancy, where she writes about how to work towards getting the most effective people policies for your organisation.