Sick and tired – two ways to reduce short-term sickness

Take a peek around your office, who’s got bags under their eyes? A recent poll revealed that lack of sleep is the biggest health concern for 42% of the population, with another 34% experiencing low-level general fatigue.

Have you ever fallen asleep at work?

Have you ever fallen asleep at work?

Our relationship to tiredness is paradoxical, a source of shame, indicating our inability to cope; but also a badge of honour, signifying the importance of our work, for some its become an ‘affordable’ status symbol.

In reality tiredness leads to irritability, either bad decision making or worse, procrastination, poor concentration and reduced creativity. Fatigue also reduces our immunity leading very quickly to ill health.

Whilst short term absences have reduced in the past year as people look to preserve their jobs, more than a third of employers claim that absences for long-term sickness increased last year. A recent survey of nearly 700 employers found that 36 per cent of those asked said long-term sickness, where an employee had been off for more than a month, had risen between 2008 and 2009. Long-term sickness is believed to be the most damaging area of absence. It cost the economy £5.3bn in 2008, according to the CBI.

The same survey found that 45 per cent of employers were dissatisfied with the sick note system assuming incorrectly that a current sick note meant that an employee could not return to work, when in fact a sick note should not be a barrier to returning to work subject to adequate risk assessments.

Interesting two significant findings were that training line managers helped to reduce short-term sickness absence and smaller companies had the lowest sickness absence rates with an average of 6.4 days last per employee.

Is there less sickness in smaller companies because people understand the importance of their role?  How can we get this feeling of worth into big business?


For more resources, see our Library topic Team Building.


Blog written by team building experts Fresh Tracks.

One response to “Sick and tired – two ways to reduce short-term sickness”

  1. In my opinion excess sick leave may be a result of unhappiness at work. An unhappy employee could be a detriment to high productivity. Companies small or large need find ways to connect their most valued people to happiness at work. This translates into happiness aways from work and helps to improve productivity while on the job.

    I facilitate change at a large company and have found that one way into the hearts and minds of the people is by finding their “What’s in it for me” factor. As a change agent I know I can not impose my reason for happiness or productivity at work. Mine will be different then everyone else. We do a gratitude exercise to help each person find the right connection of “What’s in it for me” and align change to the power of that connection with each person as best we can.

    Thinking of excess sickness, you may want to tap into this personal bit of information and help align the employees with happiness, personal benefits, and talents to lower the sickness metric and increase the productivity metric.

    Thanks for a nice article.

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