In my free eBook ‘A practical guide to employee wellbeing’ I share with you 12 common mistakes that organisation make in relation to employee wellbeing. In this post I’m going to focus on one of those common mistakes - measuring only the direct costs of sickness.
The annual cost of sickness to an organisation is usually calculated by taking the total number of days lost and multiplying it by the average daily wage. However, there is much more to it than the direct costs attributed to the amount of time that workers are being paid when they’re not at work.
I’ve broken it down into absence and being ill whilst at work (presenteeism):
1. Increased workload on others - The increased work load on other team members can lead to increased stress levels and increased chances of making costly mistakes
2. Omission - Critical task may not get done either due lack of time, oversight due to additional pressure or communication breakdown between changing personnel.
3. Impact on workplace safety (unplanned change of personnel) – This is particularly relevant in industries where safety is an issue. If the person who is used to doing the job is absent, their work may be covered by someone who is not so familiar with the environment which can increase the risk of accidents.
4. Safety (additional pressure on other people) - When a member of staff is absent this can lead to extra pressure on the rest of the team in turn leading to shortcuts or oversights. Read more about the impact of employee wellbeing on safety here.
5. Reduced quality of service – It can be frustrating for clients when they can’t get hold of the person who they usually deal with. In some cases it can actually prevent the client progressing with their own work and have significant cost implications.
6. Reduced quality of product – When a reduced team size is required to achieve the same output as the full team, the quality of the output is likely to suffer. This can lead to problems both in the short term and later down the line. Even if temporary staff take over, the impact on quality can be significant. Whether your business is in serving meals in a restaurant, processing mortgage applications or fitting kitchens to customer’s homes, sickness absence can lead to a loss of quality which could cost you refunds or remedial costs and even damage your reputation.
7. Low morale – This can be both a cause and an effect of sickness absence. Nobody wants to experience ill health (emotional or physical) but the effects on an employee’s morale can be exacerbated if they don’t feel their employer is supportive. They may also feel guilty about putting extra pressure on their colleagues and impacting on the team’s results. Not to mention the low morale experienced by those who are not ill, but who are put under extra pressure to cover for the person who is absent.
8. Missed opportunities – Unanswered phone calls, missed networking events, missed meetings with clients could all be missed opportunities. It’s a difficult one to measure, that one!
9. Strain on the relationships of those who are placed under additional pressure – sickness absence can cause workplace relationships to be put under undue strain when workload and stress levels increase. The peak in workload may be temporary but the effects on relationships can be longer lasting.
10. Strain on relationships between the person who is off sick and the other team members – Team members who are required to take on additional work and responsibility can become resentful of a team member who is frequently absent.
11. Stress – Often, when an employee is off sick their work is not covered by someone else. This means that a backlog is accumulated leading to extra workload when they return. This can lead to anxiety or stress.
12. Missed deadlines – When a key person on a project is absent it can mean that it is unavoidable that deadlines are missed.
13. Reduced output/ productivity of a team – When a team is operating with reduced numbers then the output is likely to be reduced. Even if this doesn’t create any specific problems, it can impact on turnover and profits.
14. A reduced ability to plan properly – When sickness absence is a significant problem, it undermines managers’ ability to plan effectively. In some cases is necessary to assume the worst case scenario which means that managers are forced to plan for less than full capacity. If the worst case scenario doesn’t materialise, it’s not always possible to jump back up to full capacity at short notice. In addition, uncertainty and lack of ability to plan can cause stress and a feeling of not being in control for both the manager and the team.
I have included the points below, not to raise the question of whether people should or shouldn’t turn up to work when they are unwell (that’s an issue for another day!) but to highlight effects of poor employee wellbeing.
15. Reduced productivity - When someone is present at work but either physically or emotionally unwell, then they are unlikely to be operating at their full capacity.
16. Reduced concentration – Physical illness and poor mental health can both lead to poor concentration leading to costly or dangerous mistakes
17. Spreading illness – Turning up for work with coughs, colds and sickness bugs can lead to spreading causing more people to absent.
18. Stress - Mounting workload caused by reduced productivity can lead to stress and anxiety.
19. The wider impact of reduced productivity – When an individual is operating at reduced capacity, it will impact on the rest of their team and even other teams which rely on their team.
20. The link between presenteeism and sickness absence – where presenteeism exists there is often a relationship with sickness absence. When overall employee wellbeing is poor it can be a sign that there are underlying cultural problems and if left unchecked can lead to elevated levels of sickness absence further down the line.
I’ve listed 20 here, however these are merely some of the ones that can be pinpointed (let me know if there's any I've missed!). There are plenty of other negative impacts of sickness that can’t be identified or quantified. If you think poor employee wellbeing is impacting on your team or your organisation then it may be worth investigating the contributing factors and investing some time and energy in putting together an employee wellbeing strategy.
If this blog has resonated with you then you'll definitely find my free ebook 'A Practical Guide to Employee Wellbeing' really useful.
I'd love you hear your thoughts in the comments section and any measures you have taken to reduce sickness absence in your own organisation.
Saffron Grant specialises in improving business performance by improving employee wellbeing. She provides resilience training, executive coaching and can help you to create a watertight Employee Wellbeing Strategy for your organisation.
Saffron is the author of 'A Practical Guide to Employee Wellbeing - How to create your strategy' which can be accessed for free here. You can sign up here to have her weekly blog delivered to your inbox.