The World Cup kicks off in Russia on 14th June 2018 – and along with other major summer sporting fixtures such as Wimbledon, the golf Open, Tour de France and England vs India test cricket, could spark a rise in ‘sporting sickies’.
A survey conducted by Love Energy Savings at the start of Euro 2016 suggested that one in five people would be willing to take a sickie to watch a sporting event and with all eyes on England during the World Cup employers need to prepare.
Adrian Lewis, director at Activ Absence says employers are likely to see an increase in hangovers, unauthorised sickness absence and presenteeism this summer, especially during the month long World Cup.
“The UK is a sporting nation and we really love to get behind our national team or favourite sports person but this can have a negative impact at work. People calling in sick to watch matches during the day can leave the office understaffed, plus those coming into work feeling a little bit worse for wear can mean productivity goes down.
“However employers can minimise the potential disruption of people pulling sickies with a bit of careful planning and ensure it’s business as usual during the summer sporting season. They can even use the sports season to improve employee engagement,”
Adrian offers the following tips to help employers manage staff during major sporting events this summer:
1. Keep an eye on sporting fixtures, even if you aren’t a fan yourself – Be prepared for possible sickies in advance, especially in staff critical environments, such as nursing. It’s harder to get temporary cover during major sporting events or the day after a bank holiday, so plan in advance based on previous experience.
2. Fair play is important in sport – it also extends to fair handling of leave – Decide ahead how you will handle multiple requests for staff holiday, especially during sporting tournaments – if you can’t authorise all of them, could you compromise and let people watch the fixtures at work instead? Make sure that your system is fair and visible, so that staff are aware of it in advance.
3. Make staff aware of your policy on sickness absence and enforce it equally – More than half of employed adults believe their work performance is negatively impacted when attendance policies are not fairly enforced throughout an organisation. Poor motivation leads to absenteeism, so make sure your rules treat management and staff equally. Staff are more likely to respect rules they see apply equally to everyone.
4. Educate your staff – Staff who take sick days to ‘watch the match’ don’t realise that short term absence has a big impact on the company’s bottom line and is actually more disruptive to the business than long term sickness. Raising awareness can encourage them to book planned annual leave days rather than faking a ‘sickie’.
5. Always use return to work forms and interviews – Sporting absenteeism seems to have regular offenders. By having to complete a return to work self-certification form, or experiencing a return to work interview it’s less likely to be brushed under the carpet.
6. Consider using accurate reporting and recording systems – Spreadsheets and paper forms are less than ideal for managing both staff holiday and sickness absence, especially if more than one person is able to authorise leave. Consider investing in absence management software. It’s designed for purpose, prevents leave clashes at line manager level and usually saves more than it costs – it’s also visibly fair!
7. Use sport to motivate staff – Use the sporting season to build teamwork, engagement and motivation at work. For instance hold sports themed team challenges at work, maybe even get two tickets to an event as a prize for the best performers or have themed days in the office during matches/events and show them on TV to encourage attendance.
8. Use sporting enthusiasm to drive wellness – Run an exercise challenge over summer or look out for any team sports a company team could take part in. Sport often promotes more interest in health so have healthy drinks and snacks available at work and see if your local gym will give your staff a free trial.
“The key is to plan and ensure you have the right systems in place to manage absence. While both planned and unplanned absence can be an issue for companies to stay on top off, sporty summers can also be a great opportunity for a bit of fun.
“Encouraging employees to enjoy tournaments together, get involved in sport or just become a bit healthier can be a great way to improve staff engagement and motivation.”
It’s Mental Health Awareness Week, which this year is highlighting stress as a major cause of mental illness. Aon’s Benefits and Trend Survey[i] released in January revealed a sharp increase in the number of employers reporting employee stress and mental health-related illnesses – up from 55% last year to 68% in 2018. Other research from King’s College London[ii] found that lonely millennials are more likely to experience mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety, than the general public.
So how can employers tackle the rise in workplace mental health issues?
Absence management expert Adrian Lewis, Director at Activ People HR believes that employers could make far better use of technology and data to spot the signs of mental health issues and initiate conversations about mental health issues.
According to Adrian;
“Mental Health Awareness week is important week as it raises more awareness of an issues that is becoming an epidemic in the UK, especially in the younger people. Mental health is very much in the news agenda, and is even making soap storylines, such as Aidan Connor’s suicide in last week’s Coronation Street, which was caused by his mental illness. Employers have a responsibility to their workforce and can use technology to proactively spot mental health issues, such as stress and anxiety and support staff before they start taking long periods of absence.”
Stress and stress-inducing situations are the main causes of short-term absence (up to 26 weeks) according to industry body Group Risk Development (GRiD)[iii]. A Government report found that poor mental health costs UK employers up to £42 billion a year[iv]. It also highlighted that around 15% of people at work have symptoms of an existing mental health condition.
“There is still a great deal of stigma associated with mental illness and both employers and employees can find it a difficult thing to discuss. Using technology such as absence management software not only track absence rates accurately but provides data that can show trends to employers and which can help managers initiate conversations to find out if employees are suffering from stress, anxiety or depression and let them know they won’t be judged.”