Many employees had to get used to a new way of working recently. People who used to work mainly in the office now sit at home and look for a good work-life balance. If this doesn’t work, there is a higher risk of unnecessary absenteeism due to flexible working. In many cases, as a team leader or manager, you can prevent this by taking a number of measures. So how do you avoid unnecessary absenteeism?
Smart Working was already rapidly emerging when COVID-19 both accelerated and changed the process for many organisations, which often did not yet have a policy for working from home and flexible working. The sudden transition is difficult for many employees on several fronts, partly because the line between work and private life is blurring. In this blog, we discuss how you, as a manager, continuously motivate your colleagues and stimulate a healthy balance to prevent absenteeism.
Tips for a better work-life balance
Working from home brings many benefits and can often actually cause less absence of employees. But there are also risks involved. When the line between work and private life blurs, it can have some negative outcomes. For example, work can take over private life and lead to people being overworked or even a burnout: Monster research shows that up to 69% of employees experience symptoms of a burnout while working from home.
But people can also enjoy the freedoms of working from home a little too much. Of course, it is nice that you have the option to take a little time to do grocery shopping, hang your laundry or sort all your socks by colour in between work, but this should certainly not take over the entire working day.
How to prevent absenteeism with remote employees:
- Set clear personal, team and organisational goals
- Ensure a good policy and clear agreements
- Involve managers in absenteeism policy
- Team spirit keeps employees engaged
- Communication is essential
- Acknowledge problems and achievements
- Work on the digital employee experience
- Take action against unnecessary absenteeism
Set clear personal, team and organisational goals
The great thing about goals? They are measurable. And can therefore give you good insight into how effective (or not) someone is while working from home. By setting goals for the individual, team and the organisation, you can get an indication of how effective someone, or several people, is or are.
For example, if goals are consistently not being achieved, it could be a sign that someone is having trouble concentrating at home. If someone consistently goes above and beyond their goals, it can be a sign that they have difficulty putting work aside and may be headed for a burnout. Use these results to start the conversation and help your colleagues to work optimally from home.
Ensure a good policy and clear agreements
It may speak for itself, but first of all it is important that there is a clear policy on absence. You can say that there is a lot of freedom and flexibility within your organisation, but that does not state any boundaries. As a result, people can, in principle, take this as far as they want.
Therefore, make sure that it is recorded somewhere when it is acceptable for an employee to be absent and what the agreements are regarding flexible working. For example, if employees want to take a break to take a walk in the woods, do they have to take time off for this, or is it fine, as long as they make up for the time later in the day? Are these hours tracked, or is it trust-based? Also establish where employees should report when they are absent, how far in advance they must do this and what’s expected of the organisation when this absence is a problem. This way, there are clear agreements for all parties to adhere to.
Involve managers in absenteeism policy
Although in many (often larger) organisations the HR department is responsible for the absenteeism policy, it is wise to extend this responsibility to managers and team leaders. These people are usually a lot closer to the employee than the HR department, and therefore have a more direct influence on them.
A manager or team leader has much more insight into the day-to-day affairs of his or her team or department, and is therefore better able to check whether someone is sufficiently present or performing. So let the HR department coach these people in dealing with the absenteeism policy, and again clearly determine when they should call in the help of the HR department.
In addition to monitoring attendance and productivity, the manager or team lead also had an important role in involving and motivating employees, and can thus prevent unnecessary absenteeism.
Team spirit keeps employees engaged
As a team, you stand together on the work floor, now probably more figuratively than literally, and you work together towards the team and organisational goals. This feeling of togetherness works as a motivating factor – after all, you don’t want to disappoint your team members – and should therefore be extra stimulated if colleagues see each other less, or not at all.
Work remotely on a good atmosphere and motivation within the team. Consider, for example, digital Friday afternoon drinks or regularly planning a moment to catch up, non-work related. Continue to celebrate successes and solve problems together. This way, you counteract possible feelings of isolation and it is easier for team members to hold each other accountable. To do this, one thing is especially important: communication.
Communication is essential
Without communication, you become more isolated and it’s more difficult to stay involved. Remote communication is therefore extra important. You can do this by making regular (video) calls, both one-on-one and in a team. It is also recommended to start each day with a short team meeting, where everyone can let the rest know what they plan to do that day. This, in addition to a certain degree of social control, also contributes to the team spirit and motivation,
As mentioned earlier, communication will now take place more remotely than in person. Fortunately, there are a lot of great tools to communicate and collaborate from a distance.
Acknowledge problems and achievements
Many people are now forced to work from home, more than usual or completely. Because many organisations went headlong into the lock-down, it is not surprising that there are still some hiccups when it comes to working from home.
In addition, it is quite possible that people started this working from home period in a motivated way, but still feel their motivation diminish over time.
Acknowledge these problems and difficulties and try to find a solution together. In any case, offer a listening ear and show understanding – they are doing their best with what is possible.
The same goes for achievements: from a distance, it is easy to overlook or pay little attention to them, while this is good for morale. Occasionally offer something nice to the team to keep the energy high, such as a home-delivered lunch from the company.
Work on the digital employee experience
Most of the collaboration and communication will not be digital. If this process is lengthy or over-complicated, people will quickly lose their motivation and productivity will drop significantly. It is therefore essential to ensure a good digital employee experience.
You can do this not only by using the right tools, but also by using these tools correctly. Learn more about improving the digital employee experience in this blog.
Take action against unnecessary absenteeism
Working at home offers a lot of flexibility, which is great. It’s easier to manage your own time. This way, you can do small chores around the house in between, or take a rest at other times than you would during office breaks. For most organisations, it’s really not that bad if you stop a little earlier one day or take a little longer break, as long as you compensate.
For the most part, this kind of flexibility is built on trust. So it is a shame if people take advantage of that. Also for people who do adhere properly to the policy, because this can ultimately have a negative effect on them (think less flexibility due to a lack of trust, or constantly taking up extra work from colleagues who work “a little too flexible”). Everyone can have a bad day, or even week, but that is different from systematic unnecessary absenteeism.
However, you do not want to constantly check up on people and check whether they actually handle working from home well. So don’t, but make it clear that abuse of the current situation is not appreciated, for example with an official warning (should this occur).
If everyone keeps to the agreements, you can take full advantage of the benefits of working from home.
With all these points, it is good to remember that there is also a balance here with healthy control, without constantly checking on people. An attempt to prevent absenteeism can result in micromanagement, dissatisfied employees and ultimately the opposite effect. Finding a work-life balance at home can be difficult enough. The best you can do is to support and guide in this, not dominate and over-control.