Absence management is a topic oft associated with National Sickie Day in February, rather than in the height of summer.

However, while the sunny weather is great for putting people in a good mood, the opposite can be true for HR Managers who are used to seeing unauthorised sickness absence rates rise as quickly as the mercury – particularly if Andy Murray is playing well on Centre Court!
Adrian Lewis is the Commercial Director for absence management software business Activ Absence.

He  says, 

The good weather impacts absence rates in many companies. But, this doesn’t need to be the case. With good planning, preparation and a certain amount of ‘going with the flow’, the weather can even be an opportunity for engaging employees and raising morale and worker productivity.”

Here’s our tips for how managers and HRs can manage unauthorised absence and keep employees productive and motivated:

1.  If you have spent money on fans and air conditioning for your staff that haven’t been used since last summer, test them all in late February so you know they will work in the event of a hot spell.

2.  It sounds harsh, but whilst managers should be empathetic to heat related conditions, make sure your team’s sickness and holiday is recorded accurately and fairly and dealt with under your normal policies.  Most businesses using paper or spread sheets to manage absence admit they ‘skip’ recording the odd occasion of holiday or absence, which creates upset among co-workers.

3.  Have a plan for managing a sudden increase in annual leave requests.  How will you cope if, all your fork lift drivers want to take the same days off?  Make sure your staff are fully aware of your policies around annual leave.

4.  Even if you don’t have to physically prepare for the unpredictable British summer, try to keep a list of little ‘warm weather coolers’ can put in place quickly that are pre-agreed by management.

5.  Relaxing the dress code a little in hot weather can help your staff feel more comfortable at work.  Your customers will be warm too, so will understand if people are dressed in a cooler way.

6.  Flexible working arrangements can really help staff cope in hot weather. You could offer flexible start and finish times so staff can avoid commuting at busier times, and if staff are able to work from home, consider allowing them to do so.

7.  If you don’t have air conditioning, make sure your staff have access to cold drinks – hydration is important so consider giving staff extra breaks for tea/coffee if they are not allowed to drink at their desk.

8.  Boost morale by treating everyone in your office to an ice cream – keep the number of a cash and carry handy so it’s as cheap as possible!  

9.  We know that staff tend to take sickies for summer sporting events – canny managers can turn staff interest in these outside events into an opportunity to build team morale instead by letting staff listen to the match on the radio and bringing in food that day, e.g. strawberries in Wimbledon season, or getting everyone involved, e.g. a ‘best hat for ascot’ contest.  

Engagement is the key, wherever possible, every opportunity to engage should result in a win/win.