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  • Corporate Culture

How to get employees to call in sick

It’s 7am and you climb out of bed to find that the dreaded sickness bug that has been making its way round the office has reached you. What do you do?

Option A: Climb back into bed with a hot drink and call in work sick.

Option B: Continue to get ready and make your way into the office (tissues in tow)

Struggling to answer? You’re not on your own.

The dilemma

While the logical response is to return to bed in the hope of recovering quickly and not spreading germs round the office, for many of us the thought of missing work isn’t even worth considering. According to a new report published by the Chartered Institute of Professional Development (CIPD) 86% of employers have observed staff attending work while ill – a significant rise from 26% in 2010.

Being sick-at-work is a big dilemma with no obvious answer or hard and fast rule. If it’s our second day on the job or we have an important work meeting we’re likely to go into work at any cost and what happens if the same situation comes up with the company CEO or senior leaders?

It’s a moving target, with a number of factors. Generations also have different expectations: millennials have a very different outlook on work/life balance to those in the workplace in the 80s when presenteeism was the norm. Varying opinions and assumptions when it comes to sick days can cause conflict in the workplace – not to mention issues for employers when colleagues make the wrong decision.

The cure

The key to managing sick policies begins with company culture. Although policies might say to stay at home when the flu hits, if in practice employees are penalised by individual managers for calling in sick the policy is redundant.

Cultural messages must be amplified across an organisation and at every level.

Setting a clear example is key to creating culture and there are some ways to minimise confusion:

1. Communicate

As soon as flu season arrives, send regular reminders to employees across the organisation reiterating the official policies and the cultural stance of the organisation.

2. Be consistent

To create culture and policy, consistency is key. Trust employees to know what is ‘sick enough’ and be direct with support.

3. But be practical

There will always be some grey areas in certain circumstances and managers and employees need to have candid conversations ahead of time. For employees, managers must articulate that you don’t want them to spread germs round the office and it’s OK to call in sick.

4. Create a contingency

Plan what happens if a member of the team is unavailable and discuss this with employees. This will help colleagues to manage should a situation arise, while also giving confidence to employees to take time off if they are sick.

With technology now an enabler to allow people to work from multiple locations, working from home to allow ourselves time to recover, or taking a day off, is possible.

It also helps to keep germs away from the office too!

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