When’s the last time you took a sick day? Whether virus, cold, or hangover, it’s no secret that employers and employees can have differing opinions about taking time off for illness – from feeling reluctant to fall behind, to being suspicious about symptoms.
These days, our health and wellbeing is top of mind – and with employees working from home, it’s important to make expectations clear when it comes to sick days.
We’ve had a complicated relationship with sick leave for a while – one survey found 60% had gone to work while ill, with workers reluctant to take time off even when suffering from severe symptoms. Why? Some blame it on a reluctance to fall behind with their work, with others fearing sick days reflect badly on their loyalty.
This is a problem when it involves coming into the office – spreading sickness to colleagues, or fellow commuters – but what does it mean for remote workers?
On one level, this seems like another positive to add to the long list about remote working – from the financial benefits for employers, who lose £29 billion a year thanks to sick leave, and the freedom for employees to stay on top of their tasks, even if it’s from their bed. But what are the drawbacks of working during sick leave?
It’s hard for managers to know how their employees really are, when all their interactions are through a pixelated video call. What managers can do is lead by example, by taking time off when they need it, and communicate that it’s ok to take time off.
21% of employees have admitted calling in sick when they felt stressed – but what that really shows is that many don’t consider feeling mentally unwell to be a good enough reason. Studies support that, with 61% likely to lie if their reason for calling in was mental health-related and 30% saying they couldn’t talk to their manager about stress. But ‘depression sick leave’ is the same as any other sick leave. Change the conversation, and make it clear that mental illness counts too.
It’s clear that the ‘mental health conversation’ isn’t one that employees are always comfortable having. Organisations can side-step it completely, if necessary, by changing what ‘sick leave’ means. Some companies call them “personal emergency days” – applicable to illness, poor mental health, family issues, or anything else that might come up. It means no awkward conversations about bodily functions too, which can only be a good thing.
You’ll never know everything your employees are going through. But with smarter listening – through confidential or anonymous surveys, powered by language analysis tech – you can stay on top of your people’s wellbeing. Wellbeing and employee engagement is closely linked, so it’s a good move for your workforce and your organisation.
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