The Importance Of A Compassionate Sickness Policy
Employee sickness is a major burden upon the economy, costing businesses cumulatively billions of dollars each year. Worse, as many frustrated bosses and managers suspect, a lot of us have been known to sneak the occasional day off work by claiming sickness when we’re not actually ill – just tired, or bored with our jobs, or in need of time in which to do something fun. That kind of thing can cause those who have to shoulder the burden of work while the absentee lives it up to see red. In fairness, “pulling a sickie” as it’s known over the Pond is more common in the UK than here, where employment laws safeguard employee’s rights to take time off when ill without undue fear for their job security. Here in the US, we don’t even use the time off offered to us because we’re so scared about losing our jobs, or being seen as ‘lazy’ and ‘unproductive’. This is a good thing, right? Wrong. In fact, evidence is increasingly demonstrating that optimum productivity and company loyalty is only achieved if employees not only take the vacation they are offered, but work with a compassionate and non-judgemental sickness policy.
The Spread Of Illness
Let’s start with the obvious: contagious sicknesses. If your company does not have a decent healthcare and sickness policy, it’s likely that many employees live in a state of fear that they will lose standing within the workforce if they take a sick day. As such, they are likely to come in to work when they’re suffering from contagious illnesses. Had they taken a day or even a few days off in order to get over the illness, it’s likely that the problem would have been contained within that one employee. However, they’ve gathered their ailing strength and come in to grimly power through their work – where they swiftly go on to infect a vast swathe of their colleagues. Viruses like seasonal influenza spread incredibly swiftly, and with unbelievable ease. End result? Your productivity takes a huge hit as people take time off or struggle to work properly beneath the weight of their sickness. For this reason alone, it’s a very good idea to reassure employees that taking a day off when ill is a fine and sensible thing to do.
There are no laws in the USA which oblige you to offer sick leave. Indeed, our policies regarding time off for staff are extremely weighted towards the employer in comparison to most other Western nations. However, sensible and successful companies go out of their way to give staff benefits like paid vacation and sick leave. Why? Because they know that this kind of thing not only makes staff feel kindly (and thus loyally) towards the company for which they work, but because they know that vacations and sick leave reduce employee stress. If you don’t think that stress is a big deal, then it’s time to do a little research into the subject. It’s thought that workplace related stress costs American businesses in excess of $300 billion a year through lost productivity, employee meltdowns, no-notice resignations etc. While the line between ‘motivational’ and ‘stressful’ is different for every person, and some employees work well under a degree of pressure, others will suffer enormously from being put under strain. This strain is increased if employees feel that they are working in the kind of harsh, judgemental, and uncaring environment which will penalize people for being sick. So be nice to your employees. One of the best ways you can demonstrate your compassion and perhaps reduce their stress is to be understanding when it comes to sick leave.
But what about those who fake sickness in order to get a day off? Well, if you know your workforce well enough, you should be able to spot reasonably easily when an employee is taking advantage of your kindness. If so, try talking it out with them. There may be a good reason behind their need to absent themselves – stress (as mentioned above), or bullying in the workplace for example. These you can try and sort without resorting to drastic measures. If they’re simply trying it on, then the decision as to what to do is in your hands. However, if this is not a persistent problem, it’s likely that the advantages of a happy, non-contagious workforce outweigh the disadvantages of the odd illegitimate absence.