A spoonful of sugar

7 February 2011
If you are at work reading this, then I would like to congratulate you on your hardiness. If, however, you are at home sick (and, despite terrible afflictions, catching up on the news like a good buyer should) then you are not alone. For today has been dubbed 'National Sick Day'. Extremely important research has proved this after identifying the first Monday in February as the most likely day of the year for people to take off sick. This research dares to suggest that some people may even be malingering due to gloomy weather, inability to pay their Christmas credit card bill, having no holiday in sight, general fecklessness and so on. In the defence of the absentees having such aspersions cast upon them, I would like to also point out that it is dank and damp and germ-ridden out there right now – not safe for anyone. If, however, such a thing were true and a general malaise and malcontent has affected the population suddenly – surely we should do something about it? Can purchasers buy something to help? Lemon scent to pump through the air conditioning as the Japanese do to make everyone sparky? Or should firms insist on everyone exercising together every morning to induce perkiness? This, I fear, might cause me to be an absentee every day in the manner of a 15-year-old schoolgirl. I am tempted instead to go the other way and, like a modern-day Marie Antoinette, say that buying cake for everyone in the office may raise our spirits (and has raised mine greatly today, in fact). But it is all more serious than this, of course. Simon Macpherson from Kronos Systems, who deals with the employee absence challenges of UK multi-nationals says: "National Sickness Day is often reported in a light-hearted way." Oops. "In fact," he goes on, "sickness absence is a serious issue for UK business. On average, 6.4 days per employee are lost to absence every year. The cost to UK business is estimated by the CBI to be £17 billion per annum.” Kronos thoughtfully provides a calculator to help a business understand its total cost of absence. It says organisations offering a fair and consistent way of treating staff and managing attendance and absence, see significantly lower levels of absence and higher recorded staff morale. In this vein, The Forum of Private Business has urged smaller firms to cut absenteeism and boost staff satisfaction through private health insurance, with the aim that employees return to work as swiftly as possible after illness. Perhaps the Americans, and now some companies in the UK, have a point providing 'duvet' days for employees, where one can legitimately, and without guilt, remain under the covers for up to five days of the year – giving your employer only a moment's notice (possibly useful as an alcohol abuse encouragement scheme). Something strikes me as odd about this though. Surely you are either ill or you are not. Encouraging this sort of laying about is akin to promoting a lack of backbone and moral seriousness in the general population. After all, we have an economy to get back on its feet. And buyers are essential to this operation. So has anyone got any other good rousing ideas? On a more pro-active note, Gordon Symons, energy and resilience consultant, suggests, “If you are feeling despondent about going to work, look back at a time when it felt good to be there and ask yourself what the conditions were at the time and how you were acting. Then go into work and behave that way. You can become a positive catalyst for your workplace and your colleagues.” I knew it. I’ll bring in more cake tomorrow.
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