How many of your staff call in sick around Christmas?
Did you know that employers face a whopping $350m loss in productivity in the lead up to Christmas? We didn’t know that until recently and yes we were as shocked as you are!
Employees are expected to take over a million ‘sickies’ in December, leaving bosses short-staffed and scrambling to get things done before the New Year.
So, why are sick days so popular in December and what can businesses do to keep people showing up as Christmas draws closer?
The Christmas Absenteeism Spike
There are several documented reasons why people take unplanned leave and December seems to create the perfect storm for those cheeky ‘sick days.’
Some of the major influences as to why sick days are exacerbated in December include:
Stress – 60% of people cite Christmas as the most stressful time of the year . With stress the LEADING cause of unplanned absences, it’s unsurprising absenteeism spikes in December.
Good Weather – Unless you live in Melbourne and the floods arrive mid-December, the increased sunshine at this time of the year is probably making staying home more enticing than normal. Studies show 30% of employees plan to take sick days during the summer.
Self-inflicted Illness – One in 20 people plan to take the day off after their work party – mostly because hangovers and late nights genuinely do make people feel sick – even if that feeling is their own fault.
Burn Out – The year is a long one and your employees are running out of steam. One in 7 people cites end-of-year deadlines as their biggest pressure to contend with, so it makes sense that people need a sleep-in at this time of year.
Now we have a better understanding of why absenteeism becomes rampant at this time of year, now we can take steps to counter it.
Countering Christmas Absenteeism
If people are already primed to pull a sickie in the last few weeks of work, the best way to counter this is simply to make it easier for them to show up.
1. Recognise the day after the Christmas party will be hard
Regardless of how much they drink, the long night of a staff Christmas Party will make the next morning shabby. Where possible, allow people to start a little later, or at least make the lack of sleep (or hangover) easier to deal with by putting on free coffees or a breakfast.
2. Set expectations clearly
It’s easy for company communications to die off at the end of the year, with culture taking a back seat as planning for the new year takes over. However, if your staff are reminded what is expected of them and why, a feeling of accountability can encourage the guilt to set in if the thought pops into their heads.
3. Let Them Work From Home or Shift Swap
If the type of work allows it, let staff opt to work from home a few days in December, or allow shift workers to negotiate swaps with colleagues.
4. Take It Outside
Sun can do wonders, especially when one of the top reasons for December absenteeism seems to magically correlate with warm weather patterns. Encourage staff to get outside on their lunch breaks. Hold meetings in alfresco spaces, or take team members out for lunch in the park. If employees are getting outside breaks, they’re less likely to go chasing the sun with sickies.
5. Create Flexibility
If you can bring in affordable, temporary workers on occasion in December, you can create an environment where people can leave early for their kid’s Christmas concert, that weekend at the beach or come in late after a Christmas party. Allowing flexibility means employees are able to get a little more balance in their December and are less likely to need to ‘chuck a sickie’ to try and manage Christmas.
The best gift you can give your business (and your staff) this festive season is the recognition that the year has been long and Christmas-time is demanding. Well-rested, calm and focused employees will return more productivity than those rocking in on 4 hours sleep – and will be less likely to take a day off just to get some peace and quiet. Understanding what drives Christmas absenteeism and how to create the flexible environment that counters it is key for your success now and well into January.