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Reducing employee absence rates over winter

View profile for Chloe Pereira
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Winter can be a challenging time for many - Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), cold, flu, virus and sick bugs can all contribute to an increase in sick days in your organisation.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a real illness and it affects 1 in 3 people, possibly more. It’s more common among women but can occur in people of any age. Symptoms include depression, sleep problems, lethargy, irritability or feeling sad and unsociable.

But don’t worry, practically speaking there’s plenty of things employers can do to improve wellness and well-being over the winter months to help reduce illness and absence, and they don’t have to cost the earth either. 

Ideas for improving winter well-being at work

  • Offering an annual flu jab – as the old saying goes, prevention is often better that cure! Many companies offer an optional annual flu jab for their employees. This is often provided through private healthcare plans or a dedicated corporate vaccination service.
  • Encouraging good hygiene – we got really good at this during the pandemic - regular handwashing is one of the most effective methods of preventing the spread of infection and disease. Educate on the basics – sneezing and coughing into your arm or tissues, putting used tissues in the bin, encouraging frequent handwashing or hand-sanitising along with cleaning & sanitising desks and other surfaces in the workplace regularly.
  • Stay at home if you’re unwell – presenteeism can be a real problem for businesses, it’s when employees consistently come to work, despite being unwell because they feel the need to continue despite being sick. Workplace culture normally plays a large part in why employees turn up to work despite being unwell. Firstly, it’s only natural for people to be unwell and organisations should encourage unwell employees to stay at home – not only for their well-being to rest and recover but to prevent the spread of infection and illness around the office. 
  • Encourage employees to seek medical advice when they’re unwell – it may sound obvious but if your employee is unwell, encourage them to seek medical advice when needed. 
  • Mental health – Winter can be a tricky time for people who struggle with their mental health. Encourage line managers and your team to check in with each other regularly. Mental Health First Aiders can play a part in helping identify mental health issues early. 
  • Seasonal activities – seasonal activities can help everyone get through the winter, happily and healthily. Some simple team activities could be encouraging healthy eating and nutrition advice (such as our Salad In A Jar workshop we ran earlier in the year!), walking at lunch time, exercise classes or discounts on gym memberships can all help reduce sickness and boost well-being.