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How Absence Reporting Can Tackle Mental Health in the Workplace

5 min read
hr professional using an absence management system for absence reporting

According to government research, nearly 15% of employees in the UK face mental health problems in the workplace. Mental health is critical in today’s fast-paced and demanding work environments. The well-being of employees directly affects their productivity, job satisfaction, and overall organisational success.

Fortunately, over the past few years, a growing awareness of mental health issues has prompted businesses to take proactive measures to support their employees. One effective strategy that has gained traction recently is the implementation of absence reporting systems to address mental health concerns.

Let’s dig deeper and understand how absence reporting and managing absence can effectively address mental health in your organisation.


Mental Health in the Workplace

Mental health encompasses many conditions, from common mental health issues like anxiety and depression to more severe conditions like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. With that said, mental health in the workplace is not just about not having a diagnosable mental illness. It also includes emotional resilience, coping with stress, positive self-esteem, a sense of purpose and meaning, healthy relationships, and overall psychological well-being.

Mental health directly correlates with productivity. Surveys by the ONS found that almost 13% of all recorded sickness absences in the UK can be attributed to mental health, with 15.2 million work days lost. If left unattended, these circumstances will likely affect productivity levels and cause further concerns in your organisation’s absenteeism or presenteeism rates.

What is Absence Reporting?

Absence reporting refers to the process of tracking and documenting employee absences, which can provide valuable insights into the state of their mental well-being. Businesses can identify potential mental health issues early by analysing absence patterns and trialling appropriate interventions.

These could involve approved or unauthorised absence, short term absence, increased sick leaves, or consistent delay, which can indicate underlying issues like anxiety or burnout. In these cases, absence reporting enables early intervention and provides an opportunity to offer resources and support to needy employees.


Absence Reporting and Mental Health

Research by the CIPD found that organisations with supportive absence policies reported higher levels of employee well-being and job satisfaction, with up to 96% of organisations taking the necessary steps to promote attendance. So much attention is placed on absence policy because absenteeism data lets you identify employee trends, assess the effectiveness of wellness initiatives, and develop targeted interventions, ultimately paving the way for informed decisions to address systemic issues and create a supportive work environment.

Additionally, leveraging insights gained from your absence management system allows organisations to offer resources such as employee assistance programmes, mental health support, and stress management workshops to address the specific needs of their workforce.

Want to know how to manage staff absence effectively? Here are a few organisational characteristics that showcase whether a company is doing things right.

Promoting Early Intervention and Prevention

Early identification of mental health issues through absence reporting enables organisations to intervene promptly. Recognising patterns of absenteeism related to mental health concerns allows you to provide necessary support and resources to employees at the earliest stages. Early intervention can prevent the worsening of mental health conditions and reduce the likelihood of long term absence, ultimately leading to better outcomes for employees and the organisation.

Reducing Stigma Around Mental Health in the Workplace

Absence reporting that specifically addresses mental health sends a powerful message to employees: the organisation values their well-being and is committed to creating a supportive environment. Employers can help reduce the stigma associated with these issues by openly acknowledging mental health concerns. When employees feel comfortable discussing their mental health and seeking help, it fosters a culture of empathy, understanding, and acceptance.

Enhancing Employee Well-being and Job Satisfaction

When organisations prioritise mental health through absence reporting, they demonstrate a genuine commitment to the overall well-being of their employees. This proactive approach fosters a sense of trust and loyalty among workers, as they feel supported and valued by their employers. Consequently, employees experience higher levels of job satisfaction, leading to increased engagement, motivation, and productivity.


Demonstrating Corporate Social Responsibility

Addressing mental health through absence reporting also aligns with the principles of corporate social responsibility. It showcases an organisation’s commitment to the well-being of its employees, going beyond the pursuit of profits. By prioritising mental health, businesses contribute to the larger societal conversation on mental health awareness and create a positive impact on the lives of their employees.

A Holistic Approach to Dealing with Staff Absences

Including return-to-work interviews in your absence management policy after a long term absence means you have more interaction with your team members and will better understand their needs. You’ll therefore be able to support employees in managing their mental health in a more informed way.

hr team dealing with sickness absence effective absence management

Executing Effective Employee Absence Management

The number one thing to keep in mind is having a proactive approach. Identifying things early on, encouraging open communication, and training to spot the red flags before or as they happen are all beneficial ways to handle absenteeism caused by mental health struggles. Here are some effective approaches to guarantee effective absence management in your organisation:

  • Encouraging a Culture of Open Communication and Trust: Foster an environment where employees feel safe discussing mental health concerns without fear of judgement or repercussions.
  • Providing Resources and Support for Employees: Empower employees with the necessary resources and support systems, such as employee assistance programmes (EAPs) and on-site counselling, to address their mental health concerns effectively.
  • Training Managers to Recognise and Address Mental Health Concerns: Equip managers with the skills to recognise signs of mental distress, promote open conversations, and provide appropriate support while maintaining boundaries.
  • Use Technology to Streamline Absence Reporting Processes: Leverage technology to introduce digital absence reporting systems, use data analytics from absence management software for pattern identification, integrate with HR systems, and ensure data security for streamlined and accurate absence reporting.

Challenges in Absence Management

There may be some hurdles on the way to your organisation identifying the causes for absenteeism and mitigating them successfully. Still, by proactively considering the following factors, you can ensure the successful integration of absence reporting while safeguarding the well-being and privacy of their employees. Here are some key considerations:

  • Recognising privacy and confidentiality issues: Ensure employee privacy and confidentiality are maintained during the absence reporting process, introducing data protection measures and clearly communicating the purpose of data collection.
  • Handling potential biases and discrimination: Educate about unconscious biases, promote inclusivity, and provide diversity and sensitivity training to prevent discrimination in absence reporting for mental health.
  • Balancing the need for data collection with ethical considerations: Clearly define the scope and purpose of data collection, obtain informed consent, and regularly review the necessity of collected data to align with ethical guidelines.
  • Promoting a supportive and non-stigmatising culture: Foster an open culture that encourages discussions, provides training on support and communication, and offers mental health resources for employees.
  • Ensuring ongoing evaluation and improvement: Regularly assess effectiveness, seek employee feedback, and stay updated on research, best practices, and regulations to refine absence management policies.

Absence Management with Factorial

Absence management is easiest when you have digital software to support the implementation of your employee absence policy and monitor sickness absence to easily identify possible mental health issues.

With Factorial’s all-in-one software, employees can request time off with just a few clicks. Managers can accept or reject within seconds after consulting the automatically-updated team calendar, which will flag clashes and blocked periods instantly. Each employee’s time off is recorded automatically and is accessible from one centralised location, so you can easily identify trends in sickness absence to spot potential mental health issues and gain insights into absenteeism.

The tool also adapts to fit your needs; you can tailor time off policies to each team and individual, and customise the settings for each type of leave. Book a demo to find out more!

Sergio is a seasoned copy and content writer who has worked directly with company founders, CMOs, brand executives, and marketing directors from multiple industries. He's an HR geek and humble terpsichorean.

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