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Reduce sickness leave

The sickness rate is commonly defined as the number of employees who are ill in relation to the total number of employees. This is often a first indicator of whether actions are required.

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Reduce sickness leave: useful tips

In 2021, employees were absent on sick leave for an average of around 11.2 days. The sickness rate is, of course, closely related to the industry and many other factors and can therefore vary from company to company. Nevertheless, it offers an initial indication of whether you should take measures to reduce sickness leave. Find out here what such measures might look like.

  • reasonable, measurable actions to reduce the sickness rate
  • easy implementation of health promotion programs with Humanoo
  • healthier and more satisfied employees
  • reducing sickness rates through motivation

How important it is to reduce sick leave?

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First and foremost, absenteeism usually has a negative impact on the team. After all, they suddenly have to take on the work of their sick colleagues, often without prior notice. For leaders, too, employee absences mean additional work and often high stress levels, when important projects are delayed unexpectedly or tasks have to be redistributed within a short period of time.

Such cases are part of everyday business life and cannot be avoided completely. However, when absenteeism increases, it is time to take specific measures against high rates of sick leave. Over time, a permanently overworked team generates less of a positive environment and has less motivation to complete their own tasks – until,  at some point, even the most dedicated employees are no longer able to cope with the tasks of their sick colleagues.

This creates a vicious circle: The remaining team members’ work-life balance suffers from the constant stress. This leads to increased frustration and a negative atmosphere at work. During such situations, managers often fail to show appreciation because they themselves are overworked. The consequences are a noticeable loss of quality in the work and thus increasing dissatisfaction on the part of customers and ultimately a loss of sales or even negative effects on the company’s reputation. In addition, this can lead to increased employee turnover.

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The basis for a reasonable approach to reducing sick leave is first understanding how high sick leave is related to corporate culture.

Reducing absenteeism by creating a positive corporate culture

In 2016, the German health insurer AOK presented the results of a survey in which around 2,000 employees took part. Among other things, the participants were asked about their satisfaction with the corporate culture and how they felt about their physical and mental health.

The results showed intriguing correlations: Among the respondents who were satisfied with the corporate culture, only one in ten expressed dissatisfaction with their own health. Among those who were dissatisfied with the corporate culture, four out of ten had concerns about their health – both physical and mental. Also, the perception of the corporate culture appeared to influence the duration of sick leaves.

The AOK survey provides even more interesting answers to the question of how to reduce sick leave. Indeed, the employees were also asked what constitutes a good corporate culture – and cited the employer’s loyalty in first place (78%), closely followed by recognition and appreciation for the employees’ performance (69%). Let’s take a closer look at what a health-promoting corporate culture can look like.

A “healthy” corporate culture can reduce sick leave

There are several ways in which the corporate culture can help to reduce the sickness rate. Firstly, it creates the conditions, both on a physical and psychological level, for employees – and also managers – to feel at ease in the company. By now, it is well known that health and well-being are interrelated. In addition, employees who feel well integrated into their company, their team and their work also develop stronger feelings of loyalty. Last, but not least, this can also increase productivity.

A corporate culture capable of promoting a reduction in sick leave has the following characteristics:

  • Feeling of togetherness: Employees feel that they are an important, valuable part of the company. Shared values and goals are known and part of everyday working life.
  • Feedback culture: Employees know that mistakes are allowed and deal with them honestly, fairly and constructively, both in the team and with superiors. 
  • Acknowledgement: Praise and acknowledgement are among the most important aspects of a workplace in which employees feel good and remain healthy.
  • Purpose: The employees recognizing a purpose to their own work makes a decisive contribution to reducing absenteeism. 
  • Communication: Managers lead appreciative, constructive and goal-oriented discussions with their teams.
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In addition, active health management (for example with Humanoo) also plays a major role when it comes to reducing the sickness rate. What can the implementation of such measures against a high sickness rate look like in practice?

Concrete measures to reduce sick leave

There are positive and negative measures to reduce sick leave. Negative measures are those that put pressure on sick employees – for example, by reducing wages (which is permissible under certain conditions according to § 4a of the German Continuation of Remuneration Act) or reducing vacation days that exceed the legal entitlement. It is also possible to anchor the obligation to submit a certificate of incapacity for work on the first day of sick leave in the work contract.

Frederick Herzberg, on the other hand, speaks of hygiene and motivation factors in his two-factor theory. Hygiene factors, which are merely intended to prevent more illness, include, for example, adherence to breaks and vacation times and the reduction of excessive overtime. Motivational factors, on the other hand, lead to an active reduction in sick leave in the company, as employees enjoy coming to work and feel good there. These motivational factors identify concrete actions that can reduce sick leave – and they are tangible and implementable in collaboration with managers. Here are a few examples:

  • A healthy working environment, such as access to water, fresh fruit and healthy food in the canteen, but also an ergonomic workstation
  • A workplace health promotion that supports employees, offering services such as nutrition, exercise and stress management 
  • Measures to increase employee satisfaction
  • Promoting mutually respectful relationships among colleagues and with managers, for example through team-building events
  • Feedback meetings in which managers convey to employees the feeling that they are valuable, important and needed in the company
  • A personal interaction whenever an employee calls in sick, so that they feel that they are important, but that their health is a priority
  • Regular gratitude for work, even on smaller tasks or projects that are not a top priority

Tip: Before you implement measures to reduce sick leave in your company, it makes sense to determine the current situation. One way to do this is to analyze previous absenteeism. This is the only way to evaluate whether the measures designed to reduce the sickness rate have worked after a set period of time.

Need more ideas for reducing sick leave?

Humanoo is dedicated to the health of your employees. Reduce sick leave in your company by giving your teams access to over 3,000 personalized coaching programs – for example, on stress management, exercise or nutrition tips. To check if your sickness reduction measures are working, simply use Humanoo’s surveys and reporting. Discover more about how Humanoo works here!

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