We hear all the time about the prevalence of sick days and how we all get so worked up about them. In reality, we need to look elsewhere before we start worrying about the sick days.
Biologically it is not possible to work at full steam all the time. The key to real productivity is to acknowledge your peaks and troughs, and work with them. The reality is if we focus on productivity, not presenteeism, the focus shifts to the employee and the work they produce rather than where they are and what they’re doing. The workplace of the future will hire more people who work from home so we will need to be comfortable about what they are doing. There is also a huge rise in hiring freelancers who will work from anywhere – they are paid for the end result, not the amount of time it took them to get there.
Engaged employees enjoy what they do and care about it. Engaged employees are more likely to work on a day off than try to ‘pull a sickie’ when they’re not really ill. The real issue at stake with regards to sick days is engagement. A recent Gallup survey highlighted that less than 25% of employees are engaged at work. If you want your company to thrive, work on your engagement levels. A company with high engagement levels will shine through and attract the best people, so improve the engagement percentage before you start worrying about the sick leave percentage. Most people, if they are honest, have had days when they arrived in hungover or called in sick, or had days where they surfed the net or read the paper all day. That will always happen but as long as you hire workers who care about what they do your company will be better than most.
Many staff have managers who disrespect them, give the no praise and they regularly go to bed on a Sunday night dreading the next day. This will certainly not help an employee to have a healthy lifestyle and encourage them to be productive at work. Imagine a friend or family member who feels like this about their work – think of the advice you would offer and ask yourself if you talk the same way to employees and work colleagues. The workplace of the future will need to look after its employees better and this in turn will help employees do a better job.
There will always be employees who don't want to be there, are in it for themselves or who just have issues that may impact on the company performance and morale. They are also likely to play the game and if you have a paid sick policy they will abuse it. The workplace of the future is more collaborative and the new generation want to share more. Your employees will tell you who these people are if you ask as they are most affected by having to work with them. So empower your employees more to help with hiring and firing decisions. A key reason great people join a company is to join other talented staff. Focus on engaging with the talented staff but move quickly on those who do not fit your company from a culture or a performance perspective.
There is a story of Mohini, a magnificent white tiger who was a special gift presented to the US President Eisenhower and the US people. The zoo started a project to build an enclosure for Mohini, with many acres of lush forest with rolling hills and a large pond. Mohini was kept in a 12 x 12 feet cage while her eventual home was being built. When the enclosure was completed Mohini was released but instead of roaming in this new magnificent enclosure, Mohini headed for a wall at the enclosure’s edge and started to pace around in an imaginary cage, just like the way she had while waiting for the enclosure to be built. We often have great talent within our organisation but we straitjacket them – have a think about how many of your staff feel like they are working in a 12 x 12 cage even though you feel you are a company with endless possibilities.
Remember – people do get sick, but engaged employees will be more concerned about the work than you are. Keep your people engaged and you’ll never have to worry about sick days again.