Reducing Absenteeism with Employee Mental Wellbeing Initiatives

Reducing Absenteeism with Employee Mental Wellbeing Initiatives

Absenteeism is a term used when employees are habitually absent from the workplace. It typically refers to a frequent lack of attendance rather than authorised time off, such as for holidays or sickness. Reducing absenteeism is a challenge for businesses as it is connected to a deeper underlying issue that is often overlooked or misunderstood in the workplace. 

In many professional settings, an employee’s consistent absence from work without a clear medical or personal reason is often a red flag. But to view it in isolation without considering the broader context is an oversimplification of the issue. Research conducted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reveals that a substantial 50% of work-related absenteeism can be attributed to mental health challenges. 

Onebright explores the notion that absenteeism is often symptomatic of larger underlying issues, either at the workplace or in an individual’s personal life, and how businesses can use strategic mental wellbeing initiatives to create an open and inclusive work environment with reduced absenteeism. 

What role does employee mental wellbeing have on reducing absenteeism?

Employees battling with poor mental health might opt to take time off, either to cope with acute episodes or to avoid triggers present in the workplace. Additionally, the stigma associated with discussing mental health may deter open communication about the root cause of the absences.

The environment and culture of a workplace play a significant role in shaping an employee’s response to stressors. In organisations where there is a perceived lack of understanding or support for mental health, individuals might feel cornered into silence, preferring to take unscheduled leaves rather than disclosing their struggles.

As a result, managers and peers might misinterpret frequent absences, attributing them to a lack of commitment or poor work ethic, deepening the divide and misunderstanding. This cycle perpetuates an environment where neither the employee’s wellbeing is addressed nor is the underlying cause of absenteeism understood.

Extended sick leave for employees with long-term illness

The number of days lost to sickness absence for those with long-term health conditions is now at a record high of 104.9 million days, according to the latest statistics from the ONS.

Behind this significant number are real-life narratives of people struggling to strike a balance between their health needs and their professional commitments. Often, they find themselves caught in the dilemma of wanting to contribute meaningfully at work while also needing to prioritise their wellbeing. The economic implications are substantial as businesses grapple with lost productivity and the logistical challenges of managing extended absences. However, the societal and human aspects cannot be overlooked either.

What are some causes of absenteeism that employees may not disclose?

  • Burnout 
  • Problems with colleagues
  • Disengagement 
  • Poor leadership
  • Childcare or eldercare 
  • Injuries or illness


How can managers deal with absenteeism?

Mental wellbeing initiatives can be a simple yet effective way of letting employees know they have additional support in their workplace. Strategically developed initiatives can act as an additional level of support for managers who are trying to reduce unexplained absenteeism within their teams.

Also, mental health initiatives can indirectly encourage the use of mental health tools and resources that equip individuals with coping mechanisms and strategies to handle stress and personal challenges proactively. 

Examples of mental health initiatives can include:

Mental health training

 Offering specialised training delivered by mental health experts can assist managers in understanding and spotting common psychological issues. 

Supporting awareness days

Recognising and showing support for national awareness days such as Mental Health Awareness Week or World Mental Health Day is a great way to demonstrate to employees that you are taking a genuine interest in enhancing mental wellbeing in the workplace. 

Regular One-on-One Meetings

Allocate time for regular check-ins with team members for a debrief. This can include things unrelated to work. It is vital for staff to feel comfortable sharing any mental health issues they may be facing, so ensuring that you are actively listening and maintaining eye contact is essential. 

A Mental Health Policy to Support Your Wellbeing Initiatives

A workplace mental health policy is an effective way to support wellbeing initiatives as well as reducing absenteeism, and it can be tailored to the workforce’s needs, addressing common stressors or challenges employees face. Talk to one of our friendly Onebright mental health consultants to put together a business mental health policy specifically designed for your employees’ unique requirements to create a positive and uplifting environment in your workplace.

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