From education to employment

How To Support Mental Health on #NationalSickieDay

According to statistics, 4th February is the most common day for employees to call in to work sick unnecessarily. Whether it’s a migraine or the flu, or more suspicious excuses from a flat tyre, food poisoning or an unwell pet, employers have heard them all. 

A recent study has found that the majority of education professionals (65.1%) actually only take one or two sick days a year. What’s more, only 14.3% said they have ‘pulled a sickie’ in the last 12 months. Worryingly though, two thirds (66.2%) of professionals in the sector said they feel too guilty to take time off when they’re genuinely ill. 

Head of Coaching at Westfield Health, Mark Pinches, explains how businesses can create an environment where employees will thrive:

1. Flexible working

Offering a flexible work schedule outside the traditional 9 to 5 hours, not only makes employees’ lives easier but allows organisations to build a more diverse workforce.

Working around people’s commitments can help increase staff morale and engagement which contributes to reducing staff turnover. If employees are burnt out from a long commute or juggling too much, they are more likely to lose motivation and call in sick unnecessarily.

2. Give employees a ‘mental health day’

It’s important for businesses to treat a mental health issue like they would a physical one as people may call in to work sick if they aren’t physically unwell but are feeling overly stressed or anxious.

By allowing people to take a ‘mental health day’, it will give staff the chance to recharge as well as encourage a more open and honest culture. This will help people feel valued and therefore improve retention.

3. Employee support

As well as helping employees achieve their work-related goals, a key part of a manager’s role is to be approachable and understanding. The communication between an employee and their colleagues can play a massive part in their mental wellbeing at work so will inevitably help reduce mental health absences.

Businesses should introduce an open door policy at work to encourage communication between employees and managers, so they are less likely to be dishonest when calling in to work sick.

4. MHFA training

One way that businesses can invest in the mental health of its employees is by introducing Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training, which is the mental health equivalent of physical first aid.

The training teaches candidates to spot the symptoms of a mental health issue and how to effectively support those suffering. By supporting employees in this way, businesses will create an environment that staff want to be a part of and will be less likely to pull a ‘sickie’.

5. Encourage employees to leave work at the door

Organisations that have stressed and overworked employees are more likely to have staff call in sick. Longer working hours and increased pressure has made it harder to find a healthy work life balance so managers should encourage staff to leave their work in the office and switch off when at home. 

To help this, employees should set aside 10 minutes before leaving work to get organised for the following day as this will make it easier to relax when at home.

Mark Pinches, Head of Coaching at Westfield Health

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