Managing winter sickness absence

Management & Growth,

As winter approaches, businesses face the annual challenge of managing sickness absence.

Many businesses are still working to encourage their teams back to the office after several years of remote working. This can be a struggle, particularly as the cold and flu season gets underway in earnest. The following steps could help to manage sickness absence in the coming winter months:

Promoting Vaccination

A vaccinated workforce is less likely to fall victim to flu-related illnesses. Provide your employees with the option to get flu vaccinations. Consider offering on-site vaccination clinics or providing information about local vaccination options.

Flexible Working Arrangements

This may sound contradictory given many companies are trying to encourage people back to offices, but now that remote working has become generally accepted, consider allowing employees to return to working from home when it’s feasible.

This not only reduces the risk of illnesses spreading within the workplace but also enables employees to recover and where possible, they can be productive when they are starting to feel better.

Transparent sick leave policies

Make sure your sick leave policies are clear and easily accessible. Employees should know how to report sickness absence and what’s expected of them during that time.

You need to know as quickly as possible if they’re going to be away and be able to plan as far as possible for cover over the period of absence.

Wellness Initiatives

Implement wellness programmes that encourage healthy habits, such as thorough handwashing, maintaining a balanced diet, and managing stress. These initiatives can reduce the likelihood of illnesses and absenteeism. You could even provide an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) to support your employees’ mental and emotional well-being during the winter season.

The dark and cold months can take a toll on mental health, and EAPs offer counselling and support. In the past these may have been scoffed at, but businesses are seeing tangible benefits from their implementation. Investing some time in them now may save you later, in retention as well as sickness absence!


Consider cross-training your employees to handle each other’s responsibilities. This ensures business continuity in case of unexpected absences, allowing your workforce to stay agile during busy periods.

Keep the lines of communication open with your employees. Encourage them to report illnesses promptly so that the workload can be redistributed across other team members and extra resource can be allocated, if needed.

If sickness absence becomes an issue, be sure to have your HR advisor on speed dial to help you review and update your policies, address any underlying issues and potentially help you work on your culture to improve matters. 

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