Turbulent workplaces, high pressure, and the enormous cost of absenteeism.
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A recent report by Statistics Canada, exploring employee absence rates across Canada, estimated that on average 100 million workdays were lost in a single year because of absenteeism.

It is a staggering figure, a vacuum that costs the economy around $37 billion in both direct costs and indirect expenses (such as hiring temporary workers or asking colleagues to work increased overtime to meet work demands.)

The report also stated that these figures are significantly higher today than they were a decade ago. For employers this raises the important question, why?

Absenteeism normally refers to employees absent from their jobs for reasons that could be avoided, that have become a matter of habit or are unexpected and unscheduled. If left unchecked, frequent absenteeism can have negative cumulative effects; causing personal and financial problems for employers, managers and other co-workers.

With absence rates increasing throughout Canada each year, what is causing the rise? Although reasons reside in a very wide spectrum of events, many uniquely individual, increases appear to be found in the perception of workplace demands, family responsibilities, a steadily increasing blur of work / life boundaries and personal reasons.

In the report Statistics Canada identified the industries with the highest levels of absenteeism as : Health Care and Social Assistance, Public Administration (especially federal and provincial administration), Transportation and Warehousing.

Overall, absence for personal reasons accounted for more than a quarter of all time lost by full time paid workers each week.

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Dr. Liz Scott, founder and CEO of Organizational Solutions Inc., a leading Disability and Workers' Compensation Claims Management firm, has written and spoken extensively on the subject and is a Disability Management author, keynote speaker and professor at McGill and Guelph Universities.

"The published statistics are startling but not surprising," said Dr. Scott, after examining the most recent findings. "It is an issue clients often ask us to handle and so we know from first hand experience the strain these avoidable absences cause both employers and colleagues."

"Working with a wide base of clients across Canada means we at Organizational Solutions come across challenges like this every day. Our clients include all the industries mentioned by Statistics Canada as having the highest rates of absenteeism, so we know intimately the impact absenteeism has on these and other businesses."

Dr. Scott noted that, across the board, there was definitely an increasing number of employers experiencing the financial and productivity problems caused by employees avoiding or not working the job they had been hired to do.

"A level of legitimate absence is expected by almost every employer," she added, "sooner or later most of us are going to experience some kind of sickness and no one wants people at work who are too ill to be in attendance, but there is also the need to ensure protocols are in place to ensure employees come to work when they are able."

"An absence management program can usually be better positioned as an attendance support program. The support program will work on all levels as it is designed to ensure the best outcomes for the business, the individual and fellow colleagues."

What are the most important aspects of an attendance support program?
Dr. Scott believes that it is crucial to ensure that this program assists employees with genuine reasons for absence – and these are by far the vast majority – to get into the right medical care at the right time and return to work as quickly and efficiently as possible.

"We often find," she said, "that a 'capability, not disability' focus is best for the worker. An employee who feels that they are on the right road to recovery, with the support of an employer who cares about their health, is more likely to be an asset than a burden to the company."

There are many things that influence absenteeism such as workplace atmosphere and attitude. As discussed by McHugh, 2002 Journal of Managerial Psychology;

• Absenteeism from work may be viewed as a viral infection which adversely affects, and is affected by, the overall health of the organizational system.

• In order to develop an effective treatment for this bug, it is essential that the underlying causes of the condition are highlighted, and their effects on the health of the organization be explored.

• Based on studies into employee absenteeism it is argued that to effectively treat infections which cause and are caused by employee absence, organizations must adopt an approach which is holistic and systemic.

• To foster the creation of more healthy work organizations which are well placed to deal effectively with the challenges presented by hostile and turbulent operating environments.

The report from Statistics Canada found that absence rates were significantly higher in public sector jobs compared to private sector jobs (44% higher) and higher in unionized environments compared to non union environments.

The statistics however are summarized from large quantities of data so do not speak accurately to the very wide range of factors that can exert an influence on absence rates at work. However, some of the summaries in the report do indicate personal or family responsibilities as notable reasons for absence.

Nationally, the report found that, by Province, the highest absence rates were in Newfoundland and Labrador, followed by New Brunswick, Quebec and Manitoba. Gatineau in Quebec topped the list as the City with the highest annual absence rates, followed closely by Thunder Bay, Sherbrooke, St. Johns, Victoria and Winnipeg.

If a viral absenteeism outbreak as described above becomes a problem there are effective strategies to combat its spread.

These include: a well designed attendance support policy, communication of acceptable behaviours, well understood guidelines of acceptability and, most of all, a program that is consistently followed when an employee has unacceptable levels of absence.

Continued absences can frequently become habitual. A good absence management program can help prevent this situation from developing.

If you have concerns about your company's absenteeism, the cost of absences, or employee lost time, a program that helps employees from their first day of absence until they return safely and quickly back into full or modified work is the best option.

Organizational Solutions Inc. offers exceptional disability management services to meet the expectations and trust clients have placed in us.

We recognize that the quality and effectiveness of our programs are far too important to leave to chance, and so each project is designed and managed to minimize human and financial loss and maximize productivity.

We have extensive experience managing absenteeism and have specialist expertise and insight to assist with building and maintaining a physically and psychologically healthy work environment.

We can clearly distinguish psychological illness from other factors and our disability / ability management approach focuses on our mission statement of "The RIGHT care, at the RIGHT time, for the RIGHT outcome ©."

Due to the high success rate of our programs the overall Return on Investment for Employers using our services is often significant in comparison to using insurers or managing absence and disability as part of the role of HR professionals.

We also can significantly reduce your administrative and financial burden.

Call or contact Lynda today for a quote, a brief chat or arrange an informal meeting.
Tel: | 1- 866-674-7656 ext 2243. Email: lomeara@orgsoln.com.
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