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3 Ways HR Managers Can Encourage Employees to Take Sick Time Off

Given the pandemic and rise in remote work, organizations are experiencing a shift in what it means to take sick time. If you’re home, is it still acceptable to be signed off for the day? After all, you’re not around your colleagues, potentially getting them sick. You’re at home with your blankets and couch. What’s the problem with logging in while you have a sore throat or low-grade fever?

Unlike absenteeism, presenteeism is more difficult to quantify, as employees show up for work but some underlying illness lowers their productivity and motivation. However, studies show that presenteeism costs American companies $150 billion annually in lost productivity.

And let’s face it, you can “show up” at work remotely not feeling well just as you can on-site. Some managers are obsessed with tracking absenteeism rates. However, according to the Score Association, “presenteeism is the real sleeping dragon between the two.”

Keep reading to learn how employers can maintain a positive work experience and culture so that employees take the time off they need when they are feeling under the weather. 

Why Do Employees Show Up to Work Sick?

Before we look at some ways that HR managers can encourage employees to take sick time off, let’s first look at why employees show up to work sick – whether they work remotely or on-site.

In a recent study, 67 percent of employees claim that they are less inclined to take sick days off work. For remote workers, 70 percent of employees said that they’d still work from home, even when experiencing illness symptoms. 

The reasons employees work through illness can vary. Here are some recent reasons:

However, working while sick – whether remotely or on-site – decreases worker productivity and performance while increasing burnout, all contributing to the financial impact of presenteeism.  To avoid this, let’s look at three ways HR managers can encourage needed sick time off.

1. Update and Communicate Your Sick Time Off Policy

Having an updated sick time off policy helps to create a culture that encourages employees to take time off for illness. 

Numerous employment laws have been passed – both nationally and locally – since the start of the pandemic regarding safety and leaves of absence.  Updating your sick time off policies also ensure legal compliance while showing employees that their safety is your top concern.

Additionally, updating your sick time off policies provides the necessary structure for employees to take time off when sick, by describing how sick days are earned and how to request time off. 

But these policies need to go beyond the nuts and bolts of traditional employment policies. They need to be a part of your organization’s conversation, reminding employees that they have sick time, encouraging them to take it, and allowing them to ask questions about the policy.

2. Show Some Empathy

In a recent EY survey, 54 percent of employees left a previous job because their employer wasn’t empathetic to their workplace struggles and 49 percent left because their employer wasn’t empathetic to their personal lives. 

There’s no doubt that mutual empathy between leaders and employees boosts efficiency, innovation, creativity, and company revenue. Employers must keep in mind that this empathy should extend to employees experiencing illness. 

By engaging with employees about taking sick time off, employers can not only reinforce their updated policies and procedures for sick days, but it gives the employer an opportunity to share other resources that may benefit their employees – such as those offered through the medical plan or wellness programs.

3. Take the Lead

Leading by example works for numerous workplace initiatives, and taking sick time off is not an exception. When leaders prioritize their own health by taking necessary time off to rest and recover, it sends a message to their teams about the importance of taking time off when sick.

Further, when leaders talk about unplugging, finding balance, or having activities outside of work, it sends the message that employees aren’t expected to work all the time, increasing the chances of becoming ill. 

One thing is for sure.  Employee well-being is a top discussion among leaders and workers alike. This is the best time to reassess your sick time off policies while engaging your employees when implementing change and solutions.

Want to learn more about managing your talent in today’s workplace? Contact Cangrade to learn more.