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Managing Employee Absenteeism & Engagement During a Pandemic

Posted, by Deborah Merkin
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It may be a new year, but that hasn’t erased the employee burnout or safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether a business is operating remotely or managing under new safety protocols to bring back an in-person workforce, employee absenteeism remains a costly challenge to employers.

Throughout the pandemic, employers have been challenged with balancing employee productivity while also prioritizing their mental and physical health to reduce absenteeism. Wellness programs that incorporate gift cards to incentivize and reward have been proven to increase employee productivity and help them take ownership of their health and wellness. Engaged and healthy employees miss fewer days at work and cost employers less in lost productivity and healthcare costs than disengaged workers.

The Cost of Employee Absenteeism

Employee absenteeism can greatly affect the productivity of a workforce and the bottom-line of businesses. According to the CDC, absenteeism costs U.S. employers around $1685 per employee per year. The exponential impact that cost can have on a business of any size is significant, mainly due to “indirect costs.” These costs may not carry a specific monetary amount, but they affect things like the continuity of knowledge and information among employees who are working at any given time. The cumulative effects of these costs impact revenue, long-term business goals & planning, and can even affect supply chains for manufacturing-based businesses.

From the start of the pandemic, absenteeism has often been two-pronged--engagement-based and health-based. Programs dedicated to each of these initiatives designed specifically to combat absenteeism can have a measurable positive impact on your workforce and the overall health of your business. 

For many employers, health care is their largest employee investment. Health and wellness programs designed to keep employees healthy both in the immediate and longer-term, offer support for both temporary and chronic conditions. These wellness programs are commonly supplemented with incentives like gift cards to retailers that promote healthy behaviors, like Home Chef for healthy meal delivery or CVS® to support prescription drug costs and everyday wellness items. Engaging employees to take proactive steps to manage their own health and wellness will help in reducing employee absenteeism.

Employee Absenteeism Due to Employee (Dis)Engagement

In March of 2020, how we live and work changed dramatically. Employers scrambled to shift their offices and cultures into a remote-friendly environment and as a result, quickly realized that remote employees require different types of engagement than in-person. Additionally, due to the length of time employees have been working from home, employers have had to go beyond the obvious remote activities that might have engaged employees in March or April of 2020 to other options that truly impact employee engagement and overall wellness. 

Employee engagement is specific to your individual workforce and organization. As you consider new ideas to boost the engagement of your employees, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure you think of your employees as people. Give them space and time they need to deal with distractions with flexible work hours, equipment, encourage dedicated at-home office space, etc.
  • Give employees opportunities to connect with each other, especially with people they don’t normally talk to by setting up virtual events such as an arts and crafts happy hour. This can also be facilitated through organized lunch groups, that include a gift card from the employer for each employee to order lunch.
  • Incentive and reward programs that include gift cards can be used as effective tools to engage your employees, keeping them focused and connected, even as they remain in their home office.

Employee absenteeism due to disengagement can result in an employee's inability to focus, leading to detachment from the organization and its purpose. Concentrating on the “human” elements of employee engagement will help bring employees back to the fold and keep them productive, motivated, and healthy.

Maintaining Employee Health with Wellness & Safety Programs

When it comes to employee absenteeism, COVID-19 has had a tremendous impact. According to the Wall Street Journal, several manufacturing companies are so short-handed that company executives are filling in on production lines to ensure the supply chain isn’t slowed or interrupted. Keeping employees who need to work in-person healthy is critical, and those efforts often require employers to go beyond government-mandated measures, especially as COVID-19 cases continue to surge.

Wellness programs can be a great compliment to existing safety programs, or as an effective way to introduce new safety programs. As health and safety truly go hand-in-hand during these times. Incentivizing employees with small rewards like gift cards, for following or going beyond state and federal mandates to maintain health and safety measures are effective methods that reduce absenteeism. These small investments in employee rewards can also help businesses manage much larger expenses like employee healthcare, while also ensuring business operations remain uninterrupted.

With vaccines beginning to roll out, we are inching forward to a post-pandemic environment, but we are not there yet. For in-person and remote employees alike, promoting engagement and supporting health with the right rewards and incentives will help to reduce absenteeism and increase engagement in your organization.

Employee absenteeism and decreased productivity is a real concern for all organizations. You can support the health of your employees and boost engagement by registering for your FREE Engage2Reward account today for access to over 300 gift card brands that can be used to reward and incentivize healthy behaviors. At the click of a button, your organization can easily deliver physical or eGift gift card incentives and rewards directly to your dispersed workforce.

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Topics: Employee Engagement, Employee Incentives & Rewards

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