A healthy approach to absenteeism


Workplace absenteeism has important consequences for a company and its employees. In this week’s post we examine the issue and its solutions from both an employee and an employer perspective.

Sick days cost the UK an estimated £29 billion each year[i] and employee absenteeism has important consequences that extend far beyond the financial impact. At company level, chronic or accumulated absenteeism can lead to decreased productivity and performance, as well as increased stress and overwork for coworkers or managers coping with the resulting backlog of work. This in turn can contribute to low company morale and strained employee relations.

Yet when it comes to addressing absenteeism responsibility lies as much with the employer as it does with the employee.

Turning to social media and technology

With such important consequences for their company and employees, it is not surprising employers are doing some investigating on frequently absent employees. A recent study found that over 30% of managers check up on employees who call in sick to verify their story[ii]. And in an age of 24/7 online connection there is no better place to start than social media.

  • 1 in 4 US employers have caught an employee faking sick through social media[iii]
  • 1 in 3 UK managers search social media “to see whether the staff member is well enough to post updates”[iv]

Employers are also increasingly turning to other innovative measures to address unjustified absences, including so-called Big Data strategies, which analyze absence trends across connected to holidays, weather and sporting events. Specialized absence-management systems which require employees to log their days off with a call center so that they can be tracked and stored are also gaining popularity. Finally, gaming strategies provide non-tangible rewards (like recognition and positive feedback) for employees who successfully “play the game” of attendance.[v] However, such innovations require careful forethought and legal advice, depending on the country and the jurisdiction. In addition, the risk of an employer being seen to be “policing” employees might breed a sense of mistrust and resentment in staff.

Stress and MSK disorders

Before tracking their employees, companies might to better to focus on why it is that they are staying home. Seasonal ailments aside, stress, exhaustion and musculoskeletal conditions have all been found to be major reasons for absenteeism. In fact, three in ten UK workers have called in sick due to stress, with one quarter citing fatigue from overwork[vi], and a report by the Economist states that almost half of all EU work absences over three days are to MSK disorders[vii].

MSK disorders can range from pulled muscles to chronic back pain. When not properly addressed, they can become important and debilitating health issues. However, many MSK conditions can be relieved or controlled through physiotherapy support, self-management and patient empowerment techniques.

The importance of employee well being

Monitoring absenteeism is one thing, yet more and more organisations are becoming aware of the need for policies, programmes, and employee benefits that address employees’ health before it becomes an issue. Such initiatives might include counselling, expert medical advice and physiotherapy support.

Best Doctors believes that employee wellbeing is a cornerstone of any successful organisation. Our services form an important part of employee benefits packages around the world and make a real difference to employee health and quality of life.



[i] Price Waterhouse Coopers (July 15, 2013) http://pwc.blogs.com

[ii] Brooks, Chad, Business News Daily (October 27, 2014) http://www.businessnewsdaily.com

[iii] Career Builder (October 23, 2014) http://www.careerbuilder.com

[iv] Benenden (April 25, 2013) http://www.benenden.co.uk

[v] Osak, Mitchell, Financial Post (September 30, 2013) http://business.financialpost.com

[vi] see note iv

[vii] The Economist Intelligence Unit (2014) http://www.economistinsights.com


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.