The New Year is the time when companies and organisations like to renew themselves, face the challenges of the oncoming year refreshed and reinvigorated. But absenteeism due to minor illness can hinder such plans. So how do you counter the impact of the ‘Sick-Day Season’?
January and February are commonly recognised as the ‘Sick Day Season’, the months in which most sick days are taken. In fact, according to a study of absentee data from 706 UK organisations, workers took as much as 53% more sick days in January than in any other month of the year –1,248 days compared to an average of 816 days in the other 11 months.
The study also revealed February as the second-highest sick day month (1,114) with March the third (1,054), confirming these early months of the calendar year as the most disruptive in terms of employee absenteeism.
It’s impossible to eradicate the impact of colds and flu on the workplace: people do get sick. But while some 34 million working days were lost in 2017 to minor illnesses, like colds and flu, statistics also show that the number is falling.
According to the Office for National Statistics, UK employees took almost half the number of days off work sick, on average, in 2017 than when records began in 1993 (4.1 vs 7.2 days). This means that there are ways to deal with the number of cases in the workplace, prevent the spread and ensure the minimum disruption to business and development.
So, what can be done to promote a healthier working environment? Several things, some of which are very simple.
4 Steps To Prevent The Spread Of Sickness At Work
- Ensure Sick Employees Stay At Home
- Clean Hands
- Provide alcohol-based hand sanitizers
- Ask staff to use soap and water after handling shared equipment and before eating
- Advise against sharing equipment when possible
- Ask staff to carry a pocket-sized sanitizer
- Promote Vaccinations
- Limit Interaction
- wave or nod instead of shaking hands
- stand back from colleagues when talking
- use a tissue over the mouth when coughing
- use a tissue over the nose when sneezing
- sneeze or cough into the fold in your arm
The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) claims that presenteeism can cause workers to be less productive and have lower morale. Not only that, but colleagues have been shown to be unhappy with people who turn up to work sick, with 62% of women and 47% of men admitting they resent a co-worker attending work when sick.
This is so simple, but so effective. Individuals tend to carry viruses for several days before they feel any symptoms, and hands are most guilty for the spread of viruses, with phone handles, keyboards, cup handles, shared pens and staplers among the common surfaces contaminated. The best protection, therefore, is washed hands.
According to research carried out by the International Longevity Centre UK, promoting a vaccination against the flu can save as much as £28.9 million in sick day costs, cutting the annual number of flu cases by as much to 626,000. So encouraging staff to get vaccinated, even if it means paying for the vaccinations themselves, could be a worthwhile investment.
Since hands and breath can both help spread a cold in an enclosed space, it is a good idea to limit physical interaction. This can be done even where employees display no symptoms, or a simple ticklish cough. So, ask staff to:
If possible, you could also make use of unused rooms to spread teams and lower the chance of passing on illnesses.
For more information on sick day and sick pay employee entitlements, check out the official information provided on:
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