Posts Tagged ‘absenteeism’

What makes social workers happy and what keeps them in the field?

April 6th, 2011

Social workers experience higher than average levels of attrition, stress and burnout than other helping professions such as nursing and teaching. Whereas 6 per cent of American nurses and 8 per cent of teachers left their occupations in any given year from 1992 to 2001, the figure was 15 per cent among social workers. Researchers at the University of Calgary suspect similar findings in Canada.

Common issues faced by social workers include scope of practice, perceived freedom and flexibility, work-life balance, support mechanisms in their workplaces, the physical workspace itself, as well as their relationships with clients and colleagues, including supervisors.

“Social workers, by their very nature, care about people,” says John Graham, a U of C social work professor. “People in human services . . . suffer from high caseloads (and) need the support to do their jobs.”

Given this concern, Graham, along with PhD Candidates Andrea Newberry and Micheal Shier teamed up to investigate what made social workers happy and what kept them in the field. This positive and affirmative approach is in high contrast to the traditional problem-based approach such as studying sources of stress and burnout.

Surveys were sent to 2500 social workers in Alberta. Of the 700 returned, the researchers completed in-depth interviews and job shadowing with the 13 “happiest” social workers.

The happiest social workers reported higher levels of fulfilment in areas such as flexible work schedules, better work-life balance and a stronger sense of engagement.  Having a high degree of freedom built into their jobs gave them the flexibility to manage the demands of their jobs with their personal lives including the opportunity for “self-care.”  This behind-the-scene support made a big difference and enabled them to do their jobs well.

“We’re much better at helping others when we’ve learned to find satisfaction and happiness in what we do, and to develop organizational cultures that reinforce these principles,” says Graham.

Their findings have implications for a variety of career fields. Our experience and research tells us that when employees get to the heart of what matters about their work, when they feel like they are making a difference, and they feel like they are part of a community, employee spirit at work –that sense that we are fully engaged and fulfilled by our work – increases. When employers create the conditions to foster spirit at work, the effects can only multiply.

We have demonstrated that not only can you increase spirit at work, as it increases so too does personal well-being, job satisfaction and organizational commitment. Client service and productivity goes up. And absenteeism and turnover goes down.

Want to learn more? Sign up for our monthly newsletter where we will explore spirit at work and its contributing factors in more detail. Read the book Rethinking Your Work and learn how to create spirit at work.

Val Kinjerski, PhD, is a leading authority in the field of employee engagement and on the topic of “spirit at work.” A consultant, agent of change and inspirational speaker, she helps renew employee wellness and increase performance and retention by reigniting employees’ love for their work. Check out her Spirit at Work Program and Inspired Leadership training at www.kaizensolutions.org. Val is the author of Rethinking Your Work and Rethinking Your Work Guidebook. Available now at www.rethinkingyourwork.com.

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Posted in Attracting and Keeping Employees, Creating organizational conditions, Employee Engagement and Spirit at Work, Employee Wellbeing: Refilling the Cup, Getting to Spirit at Work | Comments (0)

The Business Case for Creating a Healthy Workplace

April 10th, 2010

Healthy employees are absent less often, have higher morale, are more productive, and have lower healthcare costs. The result: happier employees, a better bottom line for the business and a higher level of customer satisfaction.  These positive effects also have a ripple effect on employees’ families, their communities, and the healthcare system.

Addressing employee health and well being has always been a strategy to contain costs. Now it has become a key strategy for attracting and retaining employees. Towers Watson argues that keeping their workforce healthy, productive and engaged will be the most critical issue for employers over the next few years.

Proactive organizations are aware of the benefits of health and productivity programs to both employees and employers, thus, are going beyond the typical employee safety programs and healthy lifestyles promotion. They are also looking at the organizational culture such as leadership, meaningful work, morale, relationships, social support, and balance between job demands and resources – all of which have a dramatic impact on employee health and sense of well being, and spirit at work.

Need more convincing?

In a meta-analysis of the literature on costs and savings associated with wellness programs, Katherine Baicker and colleagues from Harvard found that medical costs fall by about $3.27 for every dollar spent on wellness programs and that absenteeism costs fall by about $2.73 for every dollar spent.

The companies with the most effective health and productivity programs (in the Towers Watson study) report a financial advantage. Look at the outcomes:

  • 11% higher revenue per employee
  • lower medical trends by 1.2 percentage points
  • 1.8 fewer days absent per employee per year and
  • 28% higher shareholder returns

At first glance, it might seem that 1.8 days less absenteeism per year isn’t much. But if your company has 100 employees, 1.8 days translates to 180 workdays lost per year. That is 36 weeks. Where else can you get that kind return on your investment?

Towers Watson also found that high health and productivity effectiveness companies are also more likely to have:

  • lower health care costs
  • lower levels of presenteeism
  • fewer lost days due to disabilities and
  • lower levels of turnover relative to their industry peers.

How do they get these results?

The most effective health and productivity organizations didn’t focus only on the physical and mental health of employees. Emphasis was also placed on the organizational conditions which contribute to employee spirit at work and productivity such as:

  • recognition and rewards
  • organizational leadership and
  • effective communication.

What are you doing to create a healthy workplace?

At Kaizen Solutions, we work with organizations and employees to create positive, healthy workplaces that foster well-being and spirit at work. We know that the factors that contribute to a healthy workplace also contribute to employee spirit at work.

Want to learn more? Sign up for our monthly newsletter where we will explore this topic in more detail. Read the book Rethinking Your Work and learn how to create spirit at work.

Val Kinjerski, PhD, is a leading authority in the field of employee engagement and on the topic of “spirit at work.” A consultant, agent of change and professional speaker, she helps companies and organizations increase employee retention and boost productivity by reigniting employees’ love for their work. Check out her Spirit at Work Program and Inspired Leadership training at www.kaizensolutions.org. Val is the author of Rethinking Your Work and Rethinking Your Work Guidebook. Available now at www.rethinkingyourwork.com.

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How is your work impacting your health?

March 26th, 2010

Healthy employees are absent less often, have higher morale, are more productive, and have lower healthcare costs. The result: happier more engaged employees, a better bottom line for the business and a higher level of customer satisfaction. 

Recent newspaper headlines paint an unhealthy picture for both employees and their employers. Take a look:

Health costs linked to overwork and stress. Stress and illness caused by work overload is adding an extra $6 billion a year to Canadian health-care costs.  The biggest pressure is role overload—the overwhelming feeling that there’s never enough time to get things done.  About 60 % of working Canadians say they can’t balance their jobs and family lives, and this conflict is increasing physician visits by 25 % a year, in-patient hospital stays by 17 %, and use of emergency rooms by 23%.

Employers fail to respond to work-related stress concerns. Employers identify work-related stress as the biggest threat to their employees’ well-being, with more than 78% reporting it as their “top health risk concerns.”

Job strain can contribute to heart attacks. On-the-job stress can increase your blood pressure, adding to your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. 

Downsizing bad for health. Downsizing may boost company profits, but people who survive major job cuts are twice as likely to take sick leave, have a five-fold increase in backaches and muscle problems, and are five times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease within the next four years than those who lost none.    

Workaholism evenly distributed across socio-economic spectrum. Almost one-third of Canadians call themselves workaholics. Workaholics are more likely to report fair or poor health, trouble sleeping, and less satisfaction in life in general. 

35-50 per cent of disability insurance claims are stress-related. The link between overall health and workplace stress is clear. This trend has pushed more alternative work arrangements into business culture, such as remote work, contract workers and job sharing. 

At any one time between 8 and 10 per cent of the workforce is off work on stress leave. Between 30-40 per cent of short-term disability leaves are related to stress and mental health. 

Pessimism associated with heart health. People who constantly blame themselves for things that go wrong and believe that nothing good will come their way are more likely to develop heart disease than people with a positive attitude.  Optimistic men are half as likely to develop heart disease as pessimistic men. 

Electronic dependence divorces us from family and society. Family breakdown and deteriorating civility have been blamed on fragmented and stressed lifestyles. As we increase our dependence on technology, there is a crisis of “meaning and accountability” that threatens to paralyze society.   

Employees struggling with work-life balance. We’re going faster and faster and there are no boundaries; even if your work is intoxicating in the best sense, it takes over as the meaning in one’s life, and that leads to… feelings of guilt that you’re not getting to your family or to other things.

  • 47% reported they participated in “family time” (sharing a meal, doing things with your kids around the house, or going out) only once a week; 27 % said they “rarely” engaged in these activities.
  • American parents spend an average of 5.5 minutes a day (38.5 min. per week) in “meaningful conversation” with their kids. 

Do you see yourself in any of these messages? I suspect that you do. We are going faster and faster; in many cases, working harder; and our cup is getting emptier. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to feel fired up about our work when we are running on empty. Even those of us who love our work will feel depleted if we don’t take the time for replenishment.

Some of you might be asking, “What about the company’s or the organization’s responsibility? And you are absolutely right. Just like with the creation of spirit at work, employee health and wellbeing is a shared responsibility – shared between the employer and the employee. But what are you going to do if your company is not upholding their part of the deal? In the survey where more than 78% of employers identified work-related stress as their “top health risk concerns,” only 32.3 per cent of organizations surveyed offered stress management programs to employees. So yes, do what you can to make your employer accountable. At the same time, make self-care a priority. After all, you and your loved ones have the most to gain. So what can you do?

Want to learn more? Sign up for our monthly newsletter where we will explore this topic in more detail. Read the book Rethinking Your Work and learn how to create spirit at work.

Val Kinjerski, PhD, is a leading authority in the field of employee engagement and on the topic of “spirit at work.” A consultant, agent of change and professional speaker, she helps companies and organizations increase employee retention and boost productivity by reigniting employees’ love for their work. Check out her Spirit at Work Program and Inspired Leadership training at www.kaizensolutions.org. Val is the author of Rethinking Your Work and Rethinking Your Work Guidebook. Available now at www.rethinkingyourwork.com.

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Presenteeism at Work: The Hidden Costs

February 12th, 2010

We all know about the impact of absenteeism on the workplace and productivity. But have you heard about “presenteeism”? Presenteeism is a term used to describe people who show up to work, but do not perform to their capacity.

Presenteeism was first used by Dr. Cary Cooper, an organizational psychology and health professor at Manchester University in the UK to describe the overwork and feelings of job insecurity resulting from downsizing and restructuring in the 1990s. When they feel at risk of losing their job, employees feel an overwhelming need to be putting in more hours, or at least appear to be working long hours.

Perhaps you have an employee or a colleague who continually shows up to work coughing and sneezing and spreading their germs. This is another form of presenteeism. Employees who come to work despite illnesses (asthma, migraines, back troubles, depression) are less productivity and may even cause a colleague to get sick. A study completed by Desjardins Financial Security indicated that 42% or Canadian workers went to work sick or exhausted at least once in 2007. Why? Concern about looming deadlines, workload pile-up, overloading colleagues and loss of income. In many organizations, missing work is frowned upon.

Presenteeism is also related to disengagement. Employees who are moderately engaged in or actively disengaged from their work show up, but do not produce. This has a significant impact on morale and productivity. Towers Perrin found that companies with the highest level of employee engagement achieve better financial results and are more successful in keeping their valued employees than those companies with lower levels of engagement. The reverse is also true.

Presenteeism is more common in tough economic times and when unemployment is high, likely because people are afraid to lose their jobs. A long-term study showed that absenteeism declines as unemployment rates increase, while presenteeism increases. Even though employees may be dissatisfied with their jobs and lack commitment to their organization, they will show up if they fear that they will lose their job. This doesn’t mean that they will work.

Researchers say that presenteeism can cut productivity by one-third or more. In fact, presenteeism has been shown to be more costly than its cousin absenteeism or disability. Some researchers believe that the cost of presenteeism could be around 7-9 times more than that of absenteeism.

It is time to rethink work. Rather than cutting back, forward thinking employers are spending to save. They know that employees want to be engaged. They want to feel good about the work they do and the contribution they make. They want to work for a secure organization that allows them to grow and develop a career. They want to work for an employer that they can feel good about. Forward thinking companies are helping employees become engaged.

How do you engage employees? Help employees discover spirit at work. We have found that employees can develop spirit at work and become fully engaged in their work simply by rethinking their work – which by the way is the title of my book. Here are some ideas to get you started:

o Get to the heart of what matters about your work. Be clear about what you are here for, who you are serving and the real point of your work. Connect to the deeper purpose of your work.

o Appreciate who you are and the contribution you (and your colleagues) make through work.

o See your work as an act of service. Who are you serving and why? How can you best help your client, customer or patient? After all, it is about them, not us.

o Refill your cup. Manage your energy. Take time to replenish and rejuvenate.

The responsibility for fostering spirit at work is shared between the employee and the employer. While several organizational conditions contribute to or impede spirit at work, we have found that the key is inspired leadership. It is the leader who sets the tone, creates the culture, inspires the vision and purpose, and recognizes the contribution of employees. More about this in another blog.

I work with employees and organizations to cultivate SAW and we have found that work attitudes improve, absenteeism and turnover go down, and as you would expect, presenteeism also decreases. Start rethinking your work today for a better tomorrow.

Want to learn more? Sign up for our monthly newsletter where we will explore this topic in more detail. Read the book Rethinking Your Work and learn how to create spirit at work.

Val Kinjerski, PhD, is a leading authority in the field of employee engagement and on the topic of “spirit at work.” A consultant, agent of change and professional speaker, she helps companies and organizations increase employee retention and boost productivity by reigniting employees’ love for their work. Check out her Spirit at Work Program and Inspired Leadership training at www.kaizensolutions.org. Val is the author of Rethinking Your Work and Rethinking Your Work Guidebook. Available now at www.rethinkingyourwork.com.

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Seeing Your Work as an Act of Service: An Antidote to Absenteeism

August 19th, 2009

In our last blog, we talked about helping employees see their work as a noble calling. And how that would help them to feel better about their work and, at the same time, reduce absenteeism. All work matters and all work makes a contribution. When we begin to rethink our work and see it as being important, how we do our work and how we feel about our work changes.

It is not so much about what we do, but how we do it and how we think about our work. Serving others is the path to deeper meaning and fulfillment and spirit at work. We fulfill our deeper purpose by serving — serving others or serving a cause. It is through service that we make a contribution, and that is where meaning and fulfillment come from. As the saying goes, “It is through giving that we receive.”

Shelia’s story demonstrates this well.

Sheila was a graduate coordinator at a university. Among other responsibilities, she fulfilled the role of counselor to students. She dealt with students who ran out of money before their next loan was available, got kicked out of their apartment or ran out of food. Rather than be annoyed with the students, Sheila welcomed them. In fact, she looked forward to helping them. That was her job and she was there to serve. Sheila felt good about being able to help the students solve their problems. She took pride in helping them achieve their goals and was often invited to their graduation ceremonies. She knew she was making a difference. Sheila was very clear about her purpose — to serve.

Sheila’s experience was different than her colleague’s experience. Although they did the same work, Sheila had spirit at work; her colleague was struggling with burnout. What do you think was different? Sheila’s co worker was frustrated with the students and their lack of responsibility. She saw their visits as an interruption to her work rather than as a part of her job. She couldn’t believe that these students could be so irresponsible and working with them took a toll.

Often it is just a matter of our attitude and thoughts, because the work we are doing is already about service. This is the case for many employees and especially for those in the public sector and helping professions. However, if we do not see how we are serving others and do not take time to feel good about serving them, we lose most of the benefits. As did Sheila’s colleague.

What would change if you saw your work as an act of service? What would you do differently? How would it feel to see your work as a noble calling? Start to rethink your work today.

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Posted in Attracting and Keeping Employees, Purpose and Meaning In Work, Seeing Work as an Act of Service, Spirit at Work (SAW) in Action, Spirit at Work in the Public Sector | Comments (0)

Why has the public sector gone from being a noble calling to having the highest absenteeism rate?

August 10th, 2009

Working for the public sector used to be considered a noble calling. Today, Statistics Canada reveals that employees in the federal public service have the highest rate of absenteeism in the country. They are followed by health-care and social service providers, provincial public servants and municipal employees. Absenteeism is lowest in the private sector.

Absenteeism rates have been rising in all sectors since the late 1990s. The average days lost to absenteeism due to sick leave, family demands, and other personal reasons has gone from 7.4 days per worker in 1997 to 10.2 days in 2007. For public service employees, the rated jumped to 16.2 days per worker per year on average.  These days are on top of vacation time, maternity leave and other scheduled time off.

Why the difference? Statistics Canada points to an aging workforce, increased women in the workforce, higher stress levels, and more generous sick and family-related leave policies in the public services.

Others point to low morale as the cause. In a recent poll by Angus Reid, one-third of Canadians think it is more honourable to work in the private sector as compared to 15 percent who believe the working for the government is more honourable. Given a choice, 43% of those surveyed said they would choose careers in the private sector, whereas only 33% would choose the public sector.

Those interested in the private sector are drawn by the creativity, salaries and mobility. Those attracted to the public sector say it is because of the generous benefits and job security. Only one-quarter say they were drawn by a “vocation of service.” I believe that this is the root of the absenteeism concern.

While benefits and job security are important, particularly as we weather the recession, they do not give us that deeper meaning and fulfillment so many of us are seeking. They do not give us the feeling that our work is honourable. We need to know that our work matters, that we are making a difference through our work – to have something we call spirit at work. Others call it work engagement, happiness at work or flow, but it all refers to feeling good about our work and the contribution we are making.

Spirit at work can be developed. I took a team of workers through the Spirit-at-Work Program and it dramatically reduced the rate of absenteeism and turnover. Not only did we see an improvement in retention, our research pointed to an increase in job satisfaction and commitment. Morale improved and the group began working together as a team. Why? Employees began to see their work as a noble calling. They appreciated themselves and the work they did. They began to think about their work differently.

I believe that the answer to high absenteeism rates lies in helping public servants see their work as a noble calling and to feel good about their work. How can they do that? By rethinking work. Here are four ways to begin rethinking your work:

  1. Get to the heart of what matters about your work.
  2. Be on purpose at work.
  3. See your work as an act of service.
  4. Cultivate a spiritual value-based life.

Absenteeism has a huge effect on morale, productivity and profitability. It can and should be halted. We will talk in more detail about these four ways in our subsequent blogs.

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