Sick leave amongst workers in the UK has long been a cause for concern and with it showing no sign of letting up, has the time come to look at ways at making the workplace a happier environment for all that set foot within it?

The UKs workforce takes more sick leave than any of our European counterparts with the impact on the economy being particularly significant. At the forefront of the problem are mental health issues, suggesting that as wider society has begun to wake up to the degree of such invisible ailments in our communities, it’s time for employers, line managers and line workplaces to do the same.

Workplace benefits

Job seekers these days look for benefits that were hitherto un-thought of in times gone by, flexible working hours and remote working amongst them. Providing such benefits can be the difference between finding the right person and not in many cases, although simply having a general understanding of how to treat and support employees will also lead to better performance and less sick leave. It might also mean that you’re less likely to have a vacancy to fill in the first place!

Chief Happiness Officer

One trend sweeping across the US is the appointment of a Chief Happiness Officer. The basic idea behind the role is to attempt to instigate initiatives that help to make employees feel better about themselves, their role and their surroundings. The sort of ideas that are being used are specific celebrations, regular training, sessions to promote staff interacting with each other and allowing people to understand exactly the purpose of what they do.

Maybe the idea of creating a specific position to ensure the happiness of employees is a step too far for the majority of businesses. But, in the pursuit of happier employees and the quest to drive down the amount of sick leave, perhaps there are some principles of the role that are worth exploring –

  • Treat everyone as an individual – Applying the same level of interest and TLC as you might to one of your customers is a good start. An employee who feels valued is likely to return this in spades.
  • Check the basics first – If someone is disgruntled, check that they have the basic things they need in order to do their job. Not everyone expects the earth, just the right tools to do a good job.
  • Listen – Make sure the people you’re trying to help have a chance to have a say in the process. If you don’t you simply risk making the situation worse.
  • Stick to company values – Every company has some values, certainly they did when they started out. Make sure these values continue to exist both in thought and deed.
  • Support growth – Make sure people have an opportunity to better themselves and be able to see that they can grow both as people as well as employees.
  • Try to make work enjoyable – As much as possible anyway. Promote an environment that supports and talks whilst being clear about what is expected. Allow them to relax occasionally but it shouldn’t detract from the basic point of why they’re there in the first place.

Whatever strategy employers take to try and eradicate sick leave is unlikely to be a quick fix. It’s going to take time to take hold before the benefits become obvious and quantifiable. But, the process must start somewhere…….