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CCH® HR MANAGEMENT 06/14/07

Sunny skies and high temperatures have employees suffering from Seasonal Absence Syndrome, survey finds

As temperatures begin to rise, so may unscheduled absences in the workplace. The Workforce Institute has announced the findings of a new survey conducted by Harris Interactive and sponsored by Kronos Incorporated. According to the "Summer Absenteeism" survey, an overwhelming 39 percent of employees working full time have called in sick to work to enjoy a day off during the summer vacation season. The survey of 1,077 U.S. employed adults suggests that Seasonal Absence Syndrome (SAS), or employees calling in sick to enjoy a day off, fuels the issue of employers balancing the needs of employees and the business.

With the arrival of summer, approximately 30 percent of employees may call in sick this season to enjoy a day off. This startling finding validates that SAS is a huge issue for employers. The "Summer Absenteeism" survey uncovered the drivers behind SAS and explored how employers can curb the problem. When asked why they call into work sick to enjoy a day off, the most-cited responses were: I needed a mental health day; the weather was great and I wanted to enjoy the day; and my workload is heavy so I spontaneously take time off when I can. As employees look for ways to extend their weekend, the most popular days to call in sick are Friday and Monday.

The survey also suggests that SAS can have a negative impact on all employees in the workplace. Some employees agreed that when employees call in sick when they are not really sick it impacts their productivity because there are fewer people to get the work done and it sets a precedent that encourages other employees to call in sick when they are not ill. The survey also identified strategies employers can adopt to curb the issue of SAS. Full-time employees suggested establishing "summer Fridays" or enabling employees to take a half or full day off on Fridays during the summer season. Other popular responses included providing more flexibility at work such as telecommuting, compressed work weeks; and flex-time, as well as providing employees with Paid Time Off (PTO) programs that give employees a bank of time to use at their discretion.

"Because today's workplace is dynamic and constantly evolving, organizations must implement programs and strategies to support this change. The dramatic shift in how sick time is being used by employees is just one example," said Jim Kizielewicz, vice president of corporate strategy at Kronos Incorporated. "With five different generations in the workforce, organizations can't take a one-size-fits-all approach to benefits. Best practice organizations are implementing innovative programs to overcome the generational gap in today's workforce."

For additional information on this and other HR topics, consult CCH Human Resources Management or Personnel Practices/Communications.

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