Why Absenteeism Is Driving Flexible Working Uptake

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Do you know that stress levels, chronic health disorders, and high absenteeism rates cost companies nearly $450-$550 billion annually? IFEPB reports that stress, less focus on-the-job, physical health concerns and absenteeism are the top barriers negatively impacting the workplace. But there's another change afoot. Here's why absenteeism is driving flexible working uptake:


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According to research, more than 53 percent of employees are unhappy at work while more than half of employees admitted that they are taking less sleep because of workplace stress.

Can flexible working hours change this scenario? Is it the solution to rising absence rates?

Many surveys seem to indicate that allowing workers time flexibility to deal with personal concerns like stress and childcare could overcome absenteeism.

Numerous studies have also proven that hiring freelancers and remote workers is directly proportional with profit and perceptions of the organization, while flexibility in timing is positively correlated with employee retention, turnover, and low absenteeism.

Recent polls seem to confirm the desire for flexi working

Polls by YouGov, McDonald and Sage Business Cloud had these key findings:

  • Just 6 percent of employees are working in traditional 9 – to – 5 shifts.
  • Out of 4,000 adults, just 14 percent of them would opt for this traditional shift time.
  • More than 42 percent of poll participants feel way more motivated and stay longer in the same job while working in flexible schedules.
  • 8 AM to 4 PM shift was the most popular and 37% participants voted for it.
  • 65 percent agreed to work with flexibility as it would result in their wellbeing and improved satisfaction.

Flexible workers reportedly take less leaves and are more productive.


Recommended reading: 5 Essential Tools for Successfully Managing a Remote Team


Real cultural transformation is happening

Employers are increasingly adopting more flexible working arrangements to try to tackle long-term absence from the workplace, new research has found.

The annual absence management survey carried out by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development in conjunction with health insurance firm Simplyhealth UK found overall absence has risen slightly since last year to 7.6 days per employee (8.7 days in the public sector).

However, the number of employers adjusting their permitted working patterns in response has increased by 20 percent over the same period, up to 85 percent from 65 percent in 2012.

More than 70 percent said that offering flexible working had had a positive impact on absence levels specifically, the same number reporting a positive impact on employee engagement with their work and general motivation levels.

Moreover, almost half (46 percent) said that using flexible working options had helped them to make adjustments to support employees who had experienced mental health problems.

The research found that even very small changes, such as working from 10-6 rather than 9-5, could help people better balance their various responsibilities after a period of absence.

Experts also highlighted the importance of effective management throughout the process

“Getting flexible working right can lead to higher motivation levels, better productivity and increased flexibility", according to Helen Dickinson, a spokesperson for Simplyhealth UK. 

“The role of the line manager is essential. Flexible working goes great when line managers and executives are aware of the diverse lifestyle interests workers may have. By supporting employees to manage those desires thoroughly and perhaps adapting how, when or where the employee works can aid to achieve elevated commitment and motivation.”

Dr. Jill Miller, the report’s co-author, added: “As well as the employer’s role, employees must recognize that flexibility is two way and being adaptable to help the business succeed too. It is about developing an organizational culture where the employee can have clear and legitimate conversations about the obstacles they are facing.”

If we measure the modern organizational work culture, it looks like organizations have started to permit flexibility with the location, too. Considering that as long as the work gets done timely and accurately, it doesn’t really matter who, where and how that work is done.


Recommended reading: Tips for Managing and Communicating Employee Benefits


The rise of location flexibility

An intriguing new expansion in this respect refers to temporal and locational flexibility (TLF). This experiment lets workers determine and adjust when, where, and how long they work. This renders them with more flexibility with respect to the duration, schedule, and location of work.

The TLF paradigm also saves travel expenses and rental accessories. Furthermore, employees' attitudes and morale are improved, leading to more dedicated employees.

Over to you - as leaders and HR managers, are you prepared to see how you can find workable ways to bring about change, and build practices, policies, and methodologies to inspire employees and offer flexible working?

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