According to The Times Leader quoting a study from theWorkforce Institute at Kronos, there has been an 18 percent increase inworker’s faking sick to take leave in the periods between 2007 and 2010. Another2007 study, this one performed by CCH and also quoted in The Times Leader,indicated that as many as 2/3 of employees who called their offices at the lastminute to take a sick day were not really sick.
Why Employees Call inSick
While some of these employees are calling in sick simply touse up their sick time, other employees are using sick days to tend to familyneeds or the needs of children.
To shed some light on the issue of why there are so manyemployees faking sick, the Times Leader interviewed Julie Tappero, president ofa West Coast staffing service. Tappero indicated that there are many oflegitimate reasons for employees to take sick time, even if they aren’t sick.The need for emergency care, as well as the increased need to care for bothchildren and other relatives such as older parents, are just some of thereasons that increasingly-stressed employees may decide to be absent from work.
What to Do
While it makes sense that many employees are using thesesick days to deal with issues that they have to attend to, sick time can becostly for employers. Not only do employers often pay a worker who is out forthe day, but employers are also left short-handed when someone calls in sickand productivity as a whole might suffer. This is bad news when it isunplanned, as last minute sick time usually is.
To avoid this problem, offering employees other options fora work-life balance may be your best bet. This means considering alternativessuch as flextime, which lets employees, take care of their pressing familyobligations but which also ensures that they are being honest with you andactually putting in their required work hours.
Any HR professional knows that allowing employees to enjoy the benefits of a flexible workplace can lead to happier and more satisfied employees. Now, however, new information indicates that flexible workplace policies can actually have an impact on the health of employees and improve overall well being.
New Information on Workplace Flexibility
The new information on workplace flexibility was presented at the Work Life Focus: 2012 and Beyond Conference held on November 9, 2011 in Washington D.C. A chief medical officer and Vice President of Prudential Financial in New Jersey named Dr. Crighton and Prudential’s vice president for health, life and inclusion named Maureen A. Corcoran presented the information at the conference, which was co-sponsored by the Society for Human Resource Management and by the Families and Work Institute.
According to the information presented at the conference, the data is just starting to come inbut already it is becoming clear that there is a possible link between health- defined as physical, financial, familial, spiritual and emotional well being- and having a more flexible working environment. The impact of flexible workplace policies may be related to three primary areas that affect health adversely- stress, depression and obesity- all of which can be increased by an inflexible and overly burdensome work schedule that doesn’t leave time to tend to taking care of yourself or your family.
A report available for download from the Families and Work Institute website, also indicates that there is a great deal of employee demand for flexible working environments, with 55 percent of employees surveyed in a 2002 study indicating that they did not have enough time for themselves.
How to Become More Flexible
There are a number of different options for making your workplace more flexible and the Families and Work Institute website analyzed five different types of workplace flexibility to consider. These include:
- Flex-time: Employees can select their hours within a range of times and can choose to work more hours on some days and work fewer hours (or even take whole days off) on others.
- Flex-leaves: Flex leaves involve taking time off during work days when necessary to meet family and personal needs.
- Reduced time: Reduced time means working only part of the time, or working less than the full year Flex-place:
- Flex place means working somewhere other than the main place of business for part of the time Flex career:
- Flex career means having the opportunity to enter and exit the workforce more easily.
Which of these options, if any, is right for you will depend on your business structure. It’s important to remember as you consider the options that choosing one or more flexible workplace measures can help to increase employee health and perhaps increase productivity and your bottom line by extension.
According to a recent British study published in the Journal of Health Economics called “‘It’s driving her mad’: Gender differences in the effects of commuting on psychological health,” women experience more stress from their daily commute then men do. The study examined data from a British Household panel survey and found that the women who suffered the greatest psychological impact from their commute were mothers of pre-schoolers. These women were four times as affected by commuting time as men with children of the same age. The study also revealed that men in general did not experience the same stresses from commuting that women in the study did.
The Impact of the Commute
WebMD Health News, in partnership with Boots UK, reported that the increased stress experienced by women likely stems from the fact that women continue to have more household responsibilities then men do. Further, women are more apt to combine their commute with tasks like doing household shopping and dropping off or picking up children, adding to the stress they experience.
Information provided by WebMD suggests that this research may help to shed light on other recent studies that indicate that, although women benefit from increased opportunities in a more equal labor market, their happiness levels are in decline.
Working with Working Women
Employers interested in attracting top female talent can make use of study results such as these to work to make the workplace a friendlier place for women and especially for working mothers. While not possible in every case, allowing women to take advantage of alternative scheduling and working hours, including flex-time or even telecommuting, could reduce stress levels and perhaps even encourage more women to stay in the workforce. Employers could consider, for instance:
- Allowing women to work four 10 hour days instead of five 8 hour days, eliminating a day of commuting
- Allowing women to work at home, at least part of the time
- Establishing flexible scheduling, allowing women to come in earlier or leave later to better accommodate their childcare needs.
Other options like providing daycare at the office or services such as dry cleaning pickup, could also help to reduce the stress of commuting by allowing women workers to avoid some of the errands that lengthen their commute. While working with mothers to make commuting easier or to reduce commuting time may seem like a small step, it might help to keep talented working women happier and to keep them working longer.
Another study, “The Mommy Track Divides: The Impact of Childbearing on Wages of Women of Differing Skill Levels,” revealed that only 35 percent of women involved in the study were working full time five years after giving birth. This phenomenon of educated and talented working women choosing to leave the fast track to have children is widely called the “opt-out” revolution. While allowing for flex time or giving women the option to work from home might not stop the opt-out revolution, reducing some of the stresses might help to encourage some of the top talent to come to or stay in your business longer or even permanently once they have children.