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Research from IT company insight outlines that concerns regarding work culture, colleagues and workloads were some of the main reasons behind sick days taken in 2019.

The figures were based on a survey conducted in January 2020 by Kantar, which spoke to over 1,200 working adults over the course of a week. Insight highlights that, alongside people taking days off when not sick, statistics show that around 12 million workers also went into work when they were genuinely ill. This information coincided with ‘National Sickie Day’ on the first Monday in February, in which previous surveys have revealed is the most ‘popular’ day for taking off sick.

Insight has warned of ‘serious issues’ with the culture of organisations, calling for more flexible working and better working conditions overall which can help employees in their day-to-day working lives. It indicates that poor systems, work processes and conflicts with colleagues can be key reasons why people are taking sick days and, as such, is something that organisations need to be ready for. It has also commented on the issue of people working despite being sick, outlining this can be because employees cannot afford the day off, feel like they will be judged by colleagues and simply have too much work to get done.

An organisation’s first instinct may be to react angrily to someone taking a day of work due to illness. Indeed, absent employees can cause issues in overall productivity, not to mention adding increased levels of stress to those who have to pick up their work. That said, they should always approach this situation carefully. Whilst some employees may genuinely be throwing sickies to sneakily take an extra day’s holiday, organisations should never lose sight of the indication that this could be related to health and wellbeing.

It is crucial for employers to prioritise staff wellbeing and, in particular, be prepared to act if employees are struggling whilst at work. One option to explore includes offering access to an Employee Assistance Programme, which provides third-party advice to staff on dealing with both work and personal issues. Additional employee benefits, such as gym classes, can also help to keep morale up and encourage a healthier and more productive workforce.  

Tom Neil, ACAS Senior Advisor states that ‘for people to be able to be honest about how they feel at work, good work practices including having an inclusive culture and effective people management are key’.  With this in mind, aside from external initiatives, it is also important that organisations work towards an open and honest working environment, encouraging staff with any problems to come forward.

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