Winter – Still Causing Seasonal Shifts in Employee Absence – Can Human Resources Help?

winter traffic

We’ve come a long way since the seasonal changes in work patterns of the ‘olden days’ where the difference in hours of light and the drawing in of the coldest and wettest parts of the years reduced man hours dramatically. However, the man hours of many companies are still falling foul of winter mischief where the Human Resources department are not quite doing everything they can to combat this winter chaos.

If it isn’t the snow or heavy rain causing havoc, it’s the winter vomiting bug, winter depression or general heightened levels of colds and flu stealing our employees from work!  This also has a further knock on effect increasing employee stress (decreasing their productivity, and lowering their immunity, increasing the chance of them becoming sick as well), as they try to cover the extra work in an environment infested with the beginnings and tail ends of colds and flu.

But what can Human Resources do about the snow, rain and sickness? – Although they may perform miracles, Human Resources are unfortunately unlikely to have godlike powers and so cannot simply move the snow and rain around the paths to your company and make your employees immune to sickness!

However, what Human Resources can do, is change the way absence is dealt with; the following items may be worthwhile considering, if not already implemented, to improve your company’s man hours over winter:

  • Proactively encourage healthy living, and a positive working environment, especially during winter to help keep sickness and stress to a minimum.
  • Keep an eye on the weather forecast and prepare ahead of time for weather hazards like snow and heavy rain. Can you help employees be able to safely make the journey into work? For the employees most likely to be affected, can you have plans in advance, for covering their work load?
  • Ensure that the workspace is clean and dry to reduce the chance of bacteria build up from winter bugs, and ensure a comfortable temperature for working conditions, or provide appropriate PPE to keep your employees warm and dry, and therefore less likely to catch a cold.
  •  Encourage employees to stay home if they are unwell with something that may be passed to other members of staff, such as colds, flu, sickness and diarrhoea, to reduce the amount of extra days that are lost with several employees catching a bug from just one member of staff ‘braving’ an illness and bringing it to work with them.
  • Where possible setup the ability for employees to work remotely (or to complete the work at a different date/time in lieu) in the case of snow days or days off ill where they are still capable of working, just not in a fit state to be at work. This remote work could include migration of tasks from another department that can more easily be done remotely. This would mean that the man hours wouldn’t necessarily need to be lost, just moved around to free up someone else to help manage the tasks usually performed by the missing employee.
  • Finally, but not least important, ensure your absence and return to work policies are clear and as effective as possible. Keep up to date with current legislation and advances in this area and make sure that your actions against absence are applied consistently and fairly – Check out our factsheet for more information on HR Policy: Dealing with Employee Absence and Return to Work Meetings

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