The pandemic has had an undeniable effect on absences and how companies manage them. More people called out of work in 2020 than they ever have in the past twenty years. Most of these absences have direct ties to COVID-19. Illness- and other medical-related absences rose by 45%, while absences related to childcare difficulties skyrocketed by 250%. Experts also speculate that extreme stress has led to higher-than-normal rates of burnout, which also lead to absences.
The shifting attendance landscape forced many businesses to reconsider their absence management strategies. Here are the most notable absences management trends of 2021:
- A rise in telehealth. The concept of virtual doctor appointments isn’t new, but the pandemic accelerated its acceptance as the norm. Virtual appointments allow employees to receive care and prescriptions for some ailments without exposing themselves to contagion-filled waiting rooms. Telehealth also provides greater access to much-needed mental health services.
- Mental health challenges. Although employees have greater access to virtual mental health services, there is still a stigma around receiving them. However, the mental stress of the pandemic is sending a surge of anxiety and depression through employees. Employers need to spread awareness and reduce the negative association with mental health services to help prevent a widespread mental health crisis in the workplace.
- Accommodation requests. Barring undue hardship, employers must provide reasonable accommodations to federally protected groups. However, prior to the pandemic, this usually applied to the location the employee worked (i.e., in the office). With so many employees still working from home, employers need to consider what employees need to do their job rather than where the work occurs.
- Transitional difficulties. Many companies are transitioning some of their employees back to the workplace due to the COVID-19 vaccine. However, this shift won’t be easy for many employees. They may have musculoskeletal problems from prolonged use of non-ergonomic furniture (i.e., working at the kitchen table or from the couch). Employees may also struggle with a traditional eight-hour shift, as remote work allows them greater flexibility with their work hours.
The pandemic radically transformed business as usual for most organizations. Companies need to understand how these changes contribute to employees’ ongoing mental health and wellbeing. Failing to keep up with these trends will result in burnout and significant absenteeism. Contact the experts at Actec to learn more about absence management in the wake of COVID-19.