5 ways to Reduce Employee Absence & Increase Wellbeing

Workplace absence has been rising, year on year, since 2011, costing the UK economy £18 billion in lost productivity. Analysis from the Centre of Economic and Business Research and FirstCare, predicts that this trend is set to continue with the cost rising to £26 billion by 2030.

It’s no coincidence that this rise has coincided with the rise in mental health and wellbeing issues which have increased by 71.9% since 2011.

And given the impact that wellbeing issues have on absence levels, you would think that employers would be trying to turn the lost productivity trend around by looking for ways to increase the health and wellbeing of their employees.

Not so, says the C.I.P.D.’s recent Health and Wellbeing at Work report:

“Nearly one in five report that their organisation is not doing anything to improve employee health and well-being.”

So, in this post, my mission is to give you 5, practical ways, that you can use to reduce employee absence and increase wellbeing in the workplace:

1. Recruit an Inclusive and Diverse Workforce

With a growing elderly population and a reducing workforce, employers can’t afford to ignore the fact that, according to government figures, over half of workplaces are missing out because they are excluding disabled talent.

This untapped talent pool can only be accessed if the barriers that exclude disabled people from working are removed.

And this begins with employers reviewing their recruitment, selection and retention policies against the requirements of the Equality Act 2010 and signing-up to the Disability Confident scheme that will help them to think differently about disability and improve how they engage with disabled workers.

By recruiting an inclusive and diverse workforce from the widest possible talent pool, employers and staff will benefit in many ways that help to reduce absence and increase wellbeing in the workplace.

The government’s report on the Business Case for Equality and Diversity, states that:

“A diverse workforce which includes a range of perspectives can improve creativity and problem-solving, resulting in better decisions. It can also offer greater flexibility.”

2. Support Managers to Engage with Absent Employees

Managers should actively engage with employees that have been absent from work, with the focus being to help them to successfully return to work.

In order for Managers to do this, they will need the support of a sickness absence toolkit that includes:

  • Short and long-term sickness absence policy
  • Occupational health policy
  • The roles and responsibilities of managers
  • Guidance for managers on how to manage sickness absence and the return to work process
  • Checklists, Templates and Resources

This will strengthen their capabilities and give them the confidence to tackle what can be perceived as an awkward conversation, knowing that they are following best practice in helping employees to restore their well-being and productivity in the workplace.

3. Nurture your Organisation’s Culture

An organisation’s greatest asset is its culture, and that culture is built around people that share its core values and vision; all following a set of behaviours and guiding principles that take them towards achieving the organisation’s mission.

McKinsey & Company are a great example of a values-driven organisation:

“Our mission is to help our clients make distinctive, lasting, and substantial improvements in their performance and to build a great firm that attracts, develops, excites, and retains exceptional people.”

Their mission and values are clearly defined and are the North Star to which all of their strategic and day-to-day decisions follow.

A great workplace culture has a positive impact on the wellbeing, engagement and productivity of your employees and attracts the most sought after, talented people to your organisation. So nurture your culture by ensuring that:

  • The behaviours and actions of all of your employees match the core values and vision of your organisation (with senior executives and line managers leading the way.)
  • Embed your core values and vision into every aspect of your organisation’s processes and procedures.
  • Assess the health of your workplace culture to identify areas that require improvement.

4. Apply Case Management Support

When your organisation experiences conflict, (in a disciplinary matter, an investigation, a grievance, a performance issue, a complaint, a staff review) how do you handle it?

Do you muddle along, hoping it will sort itself out, or do you apply practical case management support to resolve each case using reviews and coaching to help identify the root cause of the problem and develop a ‘win-win’ solution?

The latter will reduce employee absence and increase employee well-being by resolving and reducing conflict in the workplace.

5. Regulate Workload Pressure

Regulate the workload pressure gauge so that it operates at a manageable and sustainable level.

Otherwise, the pressure will spike and employees will eventually burn out from the stress, becoming disengaged, unproductive and unwell. Having to take a leave of absence from work to recover.

An employee survey by Statista reported that more than 1 out of 3 employees consider workload to be their main source of stress at work.

So, how do you balance the workload pressure gauge?

  • Train employees about time management and how to prioritise tasks so that they feel in control of their workload
  • Encourage employees to ask their colleagues for help and advice if they need it
  • Distribute work between team members so that it doesn’t fall onto one employee’s shoulders
  • Train managers about stress management so that they are able to spot the warning signs of stress and anxiety in employees and offer appropriate support
  • Avoid setting tight deadlines that put unnecessary pressure on employees
  • Set employees tasks that match the level of responsibility associated with their job description
  • Encourage employees to ‘switch off’ out of work hours


The 5 ways to reduce employee absence and increase wellbeing in the workplace are:

  1. Recruit an Inclusive and Diverse Workforce
  2. Support Managers to Engage with Absent Employees
  3. Nurture your Organisation’s Culture
  4. Apply Case Management Support
  5. Regulate Workload Pressure

As you can see, it’s not just one approach in isolation that can reduce employee absence and increase wellbeing but a combination of proactive approaches that all work together to bring about sustainable, long-term improvements to the wellbeing of employees. And this, in turn, reduces employee absence and increases productivity.

As the C.I.P.D.’s UK Working Lives survey report says:

“Being well is working well.”

Let’s work together to turn around the rising tide of workplace absence and mental health and wellbeing issues. Contact me to find out how I can help your organisation.