Peak flu season is upon us, and will last all the way into March. During this time, millions of people will become sick—many of whom won’t be reporting to work for the two to three days it takes severe symptoms to subside. Does your organization have a plan in place to manage these staff outages? Let’s take a closer look at the issue, along with highlighting a key strategy for supporting business continuity during flu outbreaks and other unscheduled absences.
The Movement Toward Paid Sick Leave
Managing unscheduled absences caused by sick employees may be an inconvenience, but a growing number of organizations are moving in the direction of offering paid sick leave (also known as paid sick time). While this may initially seem to run counter to productivity, research increasingly points to the benefits of doing so.
Figures shared by the United States Department of Labor indicate that a staggering 90 percent of employees in one industry reported to work when sick, nearly half of whom did so because they couldn’t afford to lose pay. In other words, sick leave would significantly reduce incidences of sick employees in the workplace.
Not only does offering paid sick time help prevent the spread of contagious illnesses between coworkers, but it also allows workers to seek access to treatment and preventative care aimed at keeping future sick days to a minimum. Researchers have also linked paid sick time with improved worker morale, better employee recruitment and retention, and even enhanced productivity.
The Impact of Unexpected Absences
While implementing paid sick leave policies may ultimately be an advantage, there are, of course, challenges associated with managing unexpected absences. Depending on the industry, everything from patient ratios to production schedules can take a serious hit when employees don’t report to work. If you’re in the construction business, you may even be subject to costly penalties for late completion. The impact of unexpected employee absences can also be felt in less quantifiable ways, such as with declines in customer service and increased employee stress due to insufficient coverage.
Factor in that most workers in private industry receive somewhere between seven and nine sick days a year depending on their employer and length of service, and that many organizations allow workers who don’t use all of their allocated paid sick days to roll them over from year to year, and the potential logistical challenges associated with paid sick time and unexpected absences grow.
And then there’s the fact that businesses in a number of different industries—from healthcare and law enforcement to manufacturing and utilities—need their employees to report to work in order to operate. What can they do to maintain operations when the flu strikes?
A Best Practice for Managing Unexpected Absences
The fact is that people do get sick, and the majority of organizations today are opting to pay them sick leave. Aside from inventing a vaccine to keep your employees healthy and at work, there is a way you can minimize the toll that unexpected absences take on your organization when shifts must be filled for work to continue: Use an automated notification system.
Automated messaging services like Send Word Now allow organizations to automatically call through a pre-sequenced list one at a time in order to quickly and efficiently fill staff vacancies. This method is useful for everything from complying with union laws to managing overtime while simultaneously saving the human capital often involved in this process. Call outcomes are then documented in a report providing critical information, such as when calls were answered and which shifts were declined and by whom. Calls automatically stop when the shift is filled, sparing additional employees unnecessary calls.
But the benefits of an automated messaging service don’t end there. Send Word Now can also be configured to allow recipients to leave messages or receive automated follow-up calls containing specific information, such as the time and place to report. So whether you need to recruit one person for a single shift or an entire crew for a last-minute assignment or project, Send Word Now minimizes stress while maximizing simplicity.
In a perfect world, organizations would never have to deal with unscheduled absences: Employees would stay healthy and report to work as scheduled. In the world we live in, however, unexpected absences can and do occur. The right strategies can help organizations like yours overcome the obstacles of unexpected sick leave in order to best support both your employees and your bottom line.