If they are, you are not alone. Absence Management vendor e-days has published the results of a survey that highlights unplanned leave happens twice as often in the winter as the summer. Data from 1,000 organisation was collated and e-days found that absence rates last winter were 1.25% (from December 2018 – March 2019) compared to 0.61% in the recent summer (April to September 2019).
It also found that the second week of December is the highest for those surveyed at 2.26%. This finding was correlated by a similar piece of research from the NHS. It found that an unplanned absence rate of 4.41%, the highest of the year in 2018.
Why are your staff absent in Winter
Steve Arnold, founder & CEO of e-days, commented: “The fact that companies are facing double the strain on their workforce during winter months is a big challenge for businesses to manage, and December is clearly a climax for these challenges, with factors like office parties, last minute shopping and winter bugs creating a perfect storm of absence. Understanding and planning for these trends will enable companies to be more proactive around these times of the year and help fix some of the pressures these winter woes create.”
While Arnold highlights some of the reasons, there are a few reasons that he omitted. SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a type of winter depression. Research in North Wales published in 2001 found that only around 2.5% were affected and another in Aberdeen reports 3.5%. Some put the percentage as high as 7% but there seems little evidence to support this figure.
Another factor is the weather, while some organisations are able to provide facilities to work remotely, not all can. This can also lead to absences. e-days has created a Workplace Wellbeing Guide that looks at some of the causes and some of the actions that some companies can undertake to reduce unplanned absence. One of the reasons given is stress. Companies are urged to ensure that employees take their full leave allowance. E-days highlight this specifically as it found that 15.8% of vacation days are not taken by employees. Arnold noted: “Encouraging staff to take the remainder of planned leave towards the end of the year is a simple remedy, but most organisations aren’t even aware that staff aren’t taking holiday to maintain work-life balance.”
A simple reminder of those un-allocated days at the end of November will often enable employees, who are able to take those days.
Many look forward to the seasonal break as a time to relax and recover. It seems that the stress levels during the month make this one of the worst months for absence. Companies should be aware of this and manage staff time more effectively. There seems little academic research into the subject. While there are clearly several factors underlying absence. There are also proven methods of reducing those absences that companies can adopt. The first step might be to identify whether there is an issue in the organisation in the first place.