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Reduction in Sickness Levels during the Pandemic

Hello,

I work for 2 local authorities and we have experienced a significant reduction in sickness across both organisations since lockdown. I am keen to hear from colleagues as to what their thoughts are on the reasons for this. The obvious reason is that many employess and managers have been working from home and this potentially has masked other absences but I'm interested in possible other factors?

Many thanks,

Peter

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  • With minor illness the commute and a whole day away from home comforts can be daunting. we have a huge culture of academic staff working from home when feeling that type of illness. now that non-academic staff are being asked to work from home, this will have extended to them. Speaking as an admin person I've found it easier to self care at home, i'm not sure i'd feel OK using a hot water bottle in the workplace, that and access to my own bathroom have been the comforts. I've been working longer, lonelier hours and a lonelier lifestyle and my mental health is feeling the strain. The sick we have experienced reported has been mostly covid related and severe stress due to the huge amount of change and new work creating burnout in some despite good morale. The main sickness driver is a new term of students followed by little annual leave taken in the first term so just before Christmas it all peaks. It remains to be seen if Fresher's flu and burnout that seem to affect us are real as new patterns emerge. We have no culture of 'recreational sick,' other negative behaviours instead to avoid early starts or tasks not desired show up, also short notice leave where possible is agreed.
  • Hello Peter,
    Very much the same story. We have about 75 members of staff across four locations. We've had only one sickness absence since the lockdown in March which was a serious medical issue. The usual coughs, colds, stomach bugs etc. just haven't featured. I think the reasons include: lack of exposure to each other - so lack of illness, not having to get up, smarten up and commute if you do feel ropey and, as our surveys have shown, many have really enjoyed working at home and are very keen to prove how effectively they can work in that way. There has certainly been a sense of team community too with managers probably making more pronounced efforts to check in with staff remotely. I do wonder if the perhaps slower pace of life for some has led to them being less run down. That said, from personal experience with home schooling and a heck of lot of changing guidance to cope with in the early part of lock down - I found it a period of intense working, tense home situations and exhausting! Simply didn't have time to be off :-).
    I think many of our staff are overall very happy to be able to work at home and know we've put a lot of effort into making the return to workplace safe for them (on a Team A/B pod basis). I'm interested to see how sickness absence does or does not increase with that return.
    Helen
  • In reply to Johanna:

    I was looking at this last week as well, very little absence, although we don't have much anyway as a lot of our staff will just work at home if they have a sniffle etc. My first thought was that we aren't spreading our germs about both in the office and socially so there is just less illness about. I'd be interested in what trends other organisations have seen.
  • another reason has been our "usual suspects " for poor attendance have been the ones isolating due to being vulnerable. this has reduced the number of sporadic days by these people. a cynical way of looking at it, but it has been the case.
  • Steve Bridger

    | 0 Posts

    Community Manager

    10 Aug, 2020 14:45

    In reply to Johanna:

    This piece doesn't actually mention workplace (non)absence... but confirms what we have been discussing on this thread.

    Lockdown reduces cases of flu, colds and bronchitis in England

  • I agree with other comments on this thread - far, far fewer absences - virtually zero!

    As a London based firm, I do believe the commute was a factor in making people sick and then leaving them not well enough to 'face coming in' whereas they may feel just about well enough to work from home...the extra sleep (I get up 2 hours later these days!) helps too.

    The many hours spent travelling can be a real drain, and without this staff have reported having lots more energy to prioritise their well-being - eating better, exercise and family time. Some are drinking more at home of course, but without busy pubs and parties I am sure there are less 'hangover days' which would have previously masqueraded as migraines/upset stomachs.

    I would also factor in the removal of air travel - with all the security touch-points and recirculating air on the plane I almost expect to get ill as soon as I get off an aeroplane!
  • In reply to Isabel:

    The many hours spent travelling can be a real drain, and without this staff have reported having lots more energy to prioritise their well-being - eating better, exercise and family time. Some are drinking more at home of course, but without busy pubs and parties I am sure there are less 'hangover days' which would have previously masqueraded as migraines/upset stomachs.
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