Are employees more frustrated with people calling in sick too often, or when they come in to the office when they should have stayed at home?  Employees taking days off sick can cause a delay in work or projects being completed, reduced productivity and increased workloads (and possibly overtime costs) for those taking up the slack. Those who don’t get paid sick leave, and who come into the office when they are ill, can pass their illness to co-workers and make the situation even worse.

Sickness levels cost organisations millions, so reviewing the causes of any significant increases is important.  Causes range from an increase in illness (often seasonal), unhealthy lifestyles, caring for family members, personal emotional issues, as well as a stressful and unhappy work environment (eg. in response to a lack of job satisfaction, engagement and appreciation).

Encouraging a combination of healthy lifestyle and positive work environment can help reduce absenteeism.  Alongside your comprehensive sickness policy and monitoring system, which will help identify and legally deal with any employees abusing the system, you could consider the following:

  • Develop the leadership skills and awareness of subtle signs of stressed and unhappy employees (see blog: 20 Signs of an Unhappy Workforce)
  • Train managers in the communication skills necessary to discuss concerns with employees who have a lot of sick leave.
  • Flexibility in working hours, so that employees can make up time for caring for family members, rather than having to take the time as holiday.
  • Educate teams on the company sickness policy, especially new recruits.
  • Opportunities for improving health – including exercise, gym membership, education, health checks.
  • Researching different ways of reducing physical stress such as chairs, reducing repetitive movements.
  • Develop motivational leadership skills, including understanding threats v rewards, and the basic human needs for significance, certainty, variation, connection, autonomy and fairness  (see blog: Motivational needs: are you upsetting or rewarding employees?)
  • Communicate honestly and as soon as possible any restructures, redundancy and changes to the work environment.
  • Develop conflict management skills across all managers
  • Conduct and Employee Satisfaction Survey to identify any specific trends and concerns.
  • Ensure managers are self-aware and understand their impact on employee motivation and engagement, and the importance of improving these within their teams.

Identifying the causes of increased sickness levels is important for the organisation in terms of cost and productivity, but just as important in terms of employee welfare.  Appropriate leadership skills and effective communication skills are necessary for front line managers to be aware of the signs and understand their role in reducing the sickness levels of their teams.

How have you started to reduce sickness levels in your team?

To find out how executive coaching could help you develop your leadership and communication skills, go to or sign up for the Assiem newsletter.




  1. Estella Dearmore

    Great post. I am facing a couple of these problems.

  2. admin

    Thanks Estella. If you have any questions then let me know. K

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.