Should the causes of reduced staff absence be a concern for HR directors?
Absenteeism levels are plummeting according to new Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures, down from seven days to just four per employee. It's something that HR professionals have been aiming at for decades - but the causes and implications are more of a concern.
More competition, fear of losing jobs and missing out on promotion (as well as the 24/7 connection with work through digital devices) are creating a form of addiction, with working becoming the only way of easing anxieties. It's a difficult balance for organisations that want to see 'hardworking' and 'committed staff', but don't want the potential consequences of mental illness and declining performance over time.
As ever, the focus of HR approaches would appear to be on preventing the negative, limiting the number of days people take off sick or looking at what targets they haven't hit, instead of encouraging the positive. In reality, to be truly effective, any wellbeing policy must go beyond just preventing absence and instead look towards enabling employees to be as effective and productive as possible. A key component of such a policy relates to allowing people to recharge and properly switch off from work, not just when they are sick but in the evenings and at the weekend.
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