The role of HR: Through this article, we want to help HR advisors and HR members (and other stakeholders) reduce (long-term) absenteeism in an organization. First of all, this can be achieved by reducing direct absence, as a result of burnout, for example. On the other hand, the solution can be found in the preventive angle, for example by increasing the happiness/enjoyment of work.

The role of HR

Someone who deals with Human Resource activities (HR activities) is mainly concerned with:

  • Staff inflow (recruitment and selection)
  • The outflow of staff (dismissal)
  • Job management (job descriptions, job evaluation)
  • Staff development (including performance reviews, staff appraisal, training and competency management)
  • Framework development
  • Remuneration policy and employment conditions policy
  • Working Conditions
  • Absence guidance and health policy

(source: Wikipedia )

Of course, in this article, we will focus on the last point (absenteeism guidance)

how HR helps reduce absenteeism

An employee who is absent for a long time

To show a suitable ‘live situation’, we would like to open with the example of Frank:

Home late from work again. I cannot say that it surprises me, it has become the rule rather than the exception. Long working days. I know I can handle it because I am certainly not afraid of working hard? But by coming home so late, my time and quality of sleep suffer.

It does not give me enough energy to return work well the next day. I am tired, although I really do my best. However, my supervisor only seems to see problems and is constantly increasing the workload. The feeling of undervaluation harms my capacity and sometimes it seems that I am incapable of being able to do anything at all. – Frank

Whether the charges are justified or not. Employees will sometimes feel they are not appreciated at work. Mismanagement can be a factor in long-term absenteeism but is rarely the main cause.

However, an employee may have to cope with high work pressure, long working days and negative feelings and may not dare to raise this. Add these factors together and you have quite a few ingredients to be absent for a long time. A major reason for this is stress or burnout

Also read: burnout signals from employees

HR responsibilities

The role of HR in burnout

For example, when someone has a burnout, even the small things in life take a lot of effort, for which you simply don’t have the energy anymore. The inner voice that prescribed your peace has been ignored for too long and now your body and mind refuse service. For you, as part of the HR team, the job as mediator lies between the employer, employee and company doctor. Due to conflicts of interest, this can be a pretty tough task. How do you cope with something like this?

Understand that the person with burnout is not stable at the moment. The person in question has probably not only lacked a zest for work but also lack of zest for life. Burnout can lead to depression, anxiety and panic complaints, and simply not being able to enjoy things that normally brought much joy. It is therefore important that this is made negotiable. Not only with the manager, but also with close colleagues.

When we as humans know little about something, misunderstanding arises. By a misunderstanding, the employee’s complaints could be trivialized.

‘We all suffer from stress sometimes. Take a week off and you then you will back to normal again’

This could be the thought of the employer but also of the surrounding colleagues. However, burnout is not like flu in that it passes in a week or two. For this reason, it is important to share knowledge about what burnout means. It is no unwillingness on the part of the employee. Usually, it is precisely the employees who have a lot of heart for the business, and who are fully involved in a project. Those who take too much hay on their fork and end up with a burnout. The employee has the desire but is just not able to continue.

Also read: Addressing an employee about work stress

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An employee back as soon as possible?

Help both the employer and the employee understand that a burnout that comes to an end takes time. The over-stressed colleague is probably already struggling with a certain sense of guilt by staying away from work for a long time. A feeling of powerlessness, because he or she would like to do more himself, but does not have the energy to. A feeling of urgency to return to work, due to all the worry, the healing process is only further curbed. Of course, it is nice if the employer thinks along and can help to steer the healing process in the right direction.

For example, have the employer ask what the employee likes to do so that these chores can be done by him or her. This will make the work more fun again. If the employee normally has a lot of responsibilities, give him or her something fun to do that does not involve time limits or work pressure. In compiling a process, trust is essential. Help the employer to see that the employee probably has the same goal as him or her, namely: to become healthy again as soon as possible and to be able to join the company. The employee may not be cheated. Let this determine his or her own pace.

Also read: Increase assertiveness among employees

Give the employee confidence

Instead of wanting to compile the program yourself as an employer, it is advisable to let the employee determine a program in collaboration with the company doctor and then link this back to the employer. In this way, the employer shows that he trusts the employee. This person in turn probably feels more at ease and hopefully feels a glimmer of confidence and self-esteem coming back.

Also, help the employee with burnout to gain more confidence in the employer. Again: communication is the key here. When your employer expresses his sincere trust and appreciation to the employee and states that the employee is valuable to the company, the employee will have no reason to fear being fired immediately as soon as the sick leave duration expires. To prevent this fear, genuine interest is important. Note: this fear is very real and often present! 

Regular contact to ask how things are

In the first instance, this does not have to be at the office. Suggest to the employer whether he might be able to meet the stressed employee somewhere else, such as a restaurant, or at home. This can make it easier for the employee to talk about the problem. When the employee is immediately called to the office for an interview, this can cause extra pressure. This is where the misery started. There is probably a kind of performance pressure for the employee that he or she cannot cope with. The feeling can also quickly arise by agreeing at the office that more is expected than the person in question can handle at that moment.

Read also: Increasing employee resilience

HR connection between burnout employee and employer

Show the employee the side of the manager

At the same time, it is important to realize that the manager has also faced a difficult situation. The employee with burnout has probably done a lot for the company and will be missed in the workplace. It can, therefore, be difficult for the manager to be patient and understanding in this situation. This could even cause a certain resentment. Thoughts such as: “I also want such a long paid vacation” or “how is it possible that he is not at work but yet seems well enough to go for a coffee or a meal”, could come to mind.

Good communication is therefore important here. Keep this in mind with your role as a mediator and therefore not only be understanding and patient towards the employee but also towards the employer.

Also read: sustainable employability: how to reduce?

Communication after an absence

When an employee has recovered from being burned out, help him or her not to run too fast. The employer must also understand that some things will have to change. Otherwise, a new burnout is not unlikely. Make it clear to both parties that communication is still important. The employee must be able to state his limits in time. It is also better to admit one’s weaknesses rather than trying to overcompensate them and he or she must learn to dare to ask for help.
The employer would do well to continue to pay attention to the employee, by occasionally asking how things are going. You can give the tip to also have more informal conversations. If the employer takes the lead in this, the employee will most likely feel free to express himself.

Also read: Resolving conflicts in the workplace

Preventing a burnout among employees

Although some people are more sensitive to burnout than others, it could happen to anyone. It is also not always possible to protect an employee from a burnout. Therefore, help the employer to discuss this. It is important that there is a safe, good atmosphere in the workplace / This can already be achieved through simple things. For example a coffee machine and a clean and tidy office. Ensure open communication. Show the employer how important it is to help his or her employees as well as possible, to listen to their suggestions and to ask them about this.

In this way, the relationship between employer and employee remains or becomes more accessible. As a result, there is more confidence and more room to indicate boundaries, or to discuss problems that are encountered. So create a safe atmosphere where you can talk about burnout. As mentioned earlier, it is often the hard workers who feel strongly involved in their work, and they are ones who get burned out.

Help the employee to work on certain points. For example, learn to say ‘no’ when there is no time for something or when something is too heavy. Help the employee learn to let go. For example, imagine that the employee turns off his phone or laptop after 7 p.m. so that he or she will not secretly answer emails at home and feel the pressure to always be available for work. Let him or her take the time to rest. After all: there is another day tomorrow!

Also read: promote health in the workplace

what HR can do for employee with burnout

The role of HR in absenteeism

The role of HR is therefore quite challenging. You sometimes have the feeling that you are somewhere in between and just can’t get a grip on it.

Perhaps we can support with an effective approach to burnout prevention, or through 1 on 1 coaching with burnout.

Conquer burnout and stress

Reducing stress and recovering from burnout can be quite the challenge. With the help of our professional coaches, we are convinced that a full recovery is within reach. Our years of experience has taught us what stepping stones will help you reach your goal more effectively and how to make sure the changes you make will be of help to you for the rest of your life. Let’s turn your burnout or stress into your best life ever.

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