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Top tips to combat sickies fuelled by binge TV

Hayley Trovato

A North London-based Employment solicitor says employers can minimise sickness absence by following a few key steps, after a Radio Times survey found that nearly one in five people have called in sick so they can binge-watch their favourite TV shows. Contributor Hayley Trovato, Senior Associate – OGR Stock Denton LLP.

It can be difficult for employers to detect if an employee takes a day off to binge-watch TV and so they should look to minimise absences in the first place.

Sickness absences are costly and disruptive for employers in any sector, so it is critical to keep them to a minimum. That means making sure employees only call in sick when they are too unwell to come to work.

Here are a few top tips that employers can follow in order to minimise sickness absences:

1. Maintain positive relationships with your employees
This goes to the heart of the issue and covers your entire approach to your employees. Setting a positive tone for the employment relationship will mean that employees are more likely to be inclined to come to work in the morning and less likely to be inclined to stay at home and watch an entire series of Killing Eve.

2. Minimise anxiety in the workplace
Worries about workload or unmanageable tasks could go some way to explaining why so many employees have confessed to staying at home and binge-watching TV. Supportive management can help alleviate these stresses and again can reduce the chances of employees opting to call in sick.

3. Try to be flexible
While obviously not the case when it comes to binge-watching, sometimes sickness absence can be prompted by employees needing to juggle conflicting obligations. Where the nature of your work means there is scope to be flexible it is always a good idea to accommodate requests for different ways of working, such as working flexibly or from home.”

4. Make the workplace a pleasant place to be

“Making your workplace a pleasant environment can work wonders when it comes to staff wellbeing and motivation. Clearly, in some sectors, workplaces can be inherently unpleasant because of the nature of the work. However, where possible, simple steps such as ensure a good supply of natural light and keeping the premises clean can have a positive effect on employees – this isn’t about installing Silicon Valley-style pool tables and slides on the premises.”

5. Make your employees feel valued
Everyone likes to feel valued and that they are contributing. When people don’t feel this way, it can quickly sap their motivation and increase the likelihood that they will call in sick.  Simply making a point of thanking your staff for a job well done can go a long way to cutting down the number of days lost to sickness absences each year.”

6. Have a rigorous recruitment process in place
In ensuring that employees want to come to work in the morning, it is a good idea to ensure that they are a good fit for your organisation in the first place. An effective recruitment process can help in this regard.

The recruitment process is also an opportunity to find out whether a prospective employee has a track record of sickness absence and whether there was a good reason for this.

7. Keep detailed records of sickness absences
While it’s unlikely to help you identify the occasional incident of calling in sick to binge-watch TV, good record keeping will allow you to identify any patterns in an employee’s absence that might need to be addressed. For example, you’ll be able to see whether they always take the same day off each year or each month or whether absences coincide with certain events, whether in or out of the office. You’ll then be in a position to take the appropriate action at an early stage.”

8. Keep in contact with employees who are off sick
For some people, it could seem like an awkward thing to do, but keeping in contact with employees who are off sick is one of the best ways of managing sickness absence. You’ll be better able to gauge when an employee is likely to be back at their desk and you could get an idea of how legitimate their absence is. It will also be an opportunity to make any adjustments for their return to work that could help minimise further absences.”

9. Be clear about your expectations
In some organisations, there is a culture that everyone takes a certain number of days off each year as sickness absence, whether or not they are actually sick. This is clearly going to be hugely costly for employers and is actually going to put the pressure on colleagues who actually have come to work.

Being clear that sickness absence is only for use as a last resort, where an employee is too unwell to work is an important step for any employer.”

10. Have effective return-to-work procedures in place
Checking in with employees when they return to work following a period of sickness absence is another to minimise future episodes. It’s an opportunity to find out whether any adjustments need to be made in the workplace and also to gauge whether the time off was legitimate.”

She added that the thread that ties these tips together is good communication between employers and employees.

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