Three ways to reduce absences in 2021

Last year it was estimated that the amount of employees calling in sick on the first Monday of February will be approx. 350,000, thought to cost the economy around £45 million.

However, this year, as we know, will not follow suit to all the rest – some believe that Covid, working from home and the added mental pressure the January lockdown has presented us with, means people are more likely to want to stay in bed because they’re feeling blue.

We spoke to three employers about the measures they have in place to help combat absenteeism in 2021.

Adam Bennett from Digital ID, Experts in ID Card Printing & Access Control, talks about how introducing Mental Health First Aiders has helped reduce absences across the business: “Mental health initiatives have risen drastically in the past five years, but it’s this year more than ever when we’ve really needed them – and not just cupcakes on Blue Monday, but real, hands-on practices in place.

“As a company with over 100 employees, we have formed a team of Mental Health First Aiders, who are thoroughly trained in how to support colleagues who may be struggling, how to recognise the signs and what to do in a mental health emergency.”

As the country hopefully steps out of national lockdown, and employees move from working from home, back to the office, the dreaded common cold and flu viruses will be out in force with everyone mingling in unventilated workspaces with absenteeism predicted to rise.

Lauren McCabe from Airdri, explains how an innovative piece of technology can help keep absences low when we return to work: “When it comes to spreading colds and flu, it’s all about the air and surfaces. There are products that are proven to reduce the spread of infectious diseases. SteraSpace works to tackle the germs and bacteria in the air by emitting a plasma, which sanitises the air in workspaces and cleanses the surfaces it falls onto.

“The SteraSpace technology was used in an NHS call centre, which sees colleagues come through the door 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Using the SteraSpace units resulted in absences dropping by 42%, with reports of less complaints of colds, flu, stomach bugs and breathing related illnesses. This saved the employer £213,704 in sickness cover over three months.”

Sarah Plant from People Team Solutions (, talks about how to manage absences when you have colleagues working from home: “With a lot going on in the world right now, it can be a real struggle for colleagues to get motivated and stay motivated throughout the working week.”

“I advise employees to schedule daily catchups with the team and regular one-to-ones with line managers if possible, to ensure some element of structure.”

2021 will again look very different from past years, but with these tips, correct processes in place and a few workplace initiatives, employers can help keep absences to a minimum and productivity levels will again rise back to where they were pre-pandemic.

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