Did you know that in 2015/2016, 30.4million working days were lost due to illness? Not only does the cost of lost days impact the UK Economy (£16.6bn in 2015) but it also raises a flag as to why staff are taking all this time off!

When Vitamin D was flagged as a potential to reduce colds and other viruses it instantly trended on Twitter – a sure sign that we have a real interest in getting better quickly!

We spoke to the experts at Personal Group and asked them to create a wellbeing checklist for HR professionals. So, if time off is impacting you, read on and get to the bottom of why your staff are taking so much time off and see how to put a plan in place to make sure that when they are off, it is for the right reasons!

1) Understand the issues.
Back to work interviews are good but there is a risk that staff aren’t telling you the real reasons they are off. What you really need is a way of predicting why these sick days are being taken so you can make sure that there is something in place to eliminate any need for unnecessary days off. Look back at your annual surveys, are there any issues trending that might lead to stress or worry for staff? A HR Hub that can delve into stats will allow you see just how many times people are looking at their EAP programme and what issues are most prevalent. Take this information and make it work for you. Does your Health and Wellbeing programme really tick all the boxes? If you are seeing a rise in people asking for advances in pay, then communicate details of the benefits you have in place that might help combat that worry, stress and other issues before it manifests itself into something worse.

2) Culture is key
“If everyone else is taking days off, then why shouldn’t I?”. It might be the case that staff who have been working for you for a long time are more lapsed in their attendance. Or, if you have flexible working, if people are not in the office most of the time staff could try and take days off in the hope that it won’t be noticed. This is where you need to lead by example. Celebrate those who have had the best attendance and reaffirm company attendance policies. Take time to see if staff know your sickness policy and that Line Managers are aware of how to deal with absenteeism from the odd sick day, right down to long term absence from the office. It is also important that you communicate the employee benefits on offer that can help staff remain healthy and happy at work. Showing people that these things are in place will show that you care and make your staff happier to show up to the office. If they are feeling stressed or worried and have nowhere to turn, then it might be easier for them to hide at home.

3) Set a challenge
If you want a healthy and happy workforce then you should be coming up with ways to engage staff so that they want to be in the office. It could be helping with major lifestyle changes such as Stop Smoking workshops, right down to giving every member of staff a Fitbit. After all, who doesn’t love a bit of healthy competition? Plus, you can celebrate the success of staff once they reach health and wellness milestones! These initiatives can bring staff together and is a good way to make sure that you are encouraging your staff to be healthy as well as showing you care about their wellbeing. A change in lifestyle could be the solution to your problem. Incorporating interactive initiatives into your health and wellbeing programme is not only fun for staff but you will be able to see the results. Wellbeing days and workshops are a great way to form a mutual interest amongst all staff. This is a powerful engagement tool with fitness as a positive consequence.

4) Don’t ignore presenteeism
Encouraging staff to come to work is good, but it is important not to have them at work when they should be getting better as it could have more serious consequences. Not only are you running the risk of making the rest of your team ill, but it can be perceived that you are setting the expectation for people to come to work when they really shouldn’t be there. It has been reported that the main reasons people don’t come to work are demands of the job, stress and job security. If staff are working when they are ill, it can lead to a negative association with work which could make them unhappier and less productive. So all you are left with is a miserable member of staff that is making the rest of your team feel the same way! So as important it is to reduce absenteeism, it is also important to identify the signs of genuine illness and encourage staff to take time to feel better so they are happier and enjoy coming to work.

5) Bring it all together
It is great to have EAP programmes and extensive Health and wellness initiatives but making sure people know what’s available to them is another challenge that you must consider. It is imperative that you have a resource or better yet, a platform where staff can easily access help when they need it most. It must be remembered that some members of staff don’t read emails, attend fitness classes hosted at work or are in fact just too busy to take in all of the information that you are sharing. What they need is one place that they are made aware of benefits and know that they can access it when it suits them.

Making these resources available outside of work also enhances the likelihood of people using the platform at a time and location that is best for them. Showing you care will make your staff care and as a result hopefully make them happier and show up to the office because they want to be there, not because they are too scared of letting you down