Can Your Company Stay Productive with Flu Season Ahead?

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Can Your Company Stay Productive with Flu Season Ahead?

Illness time is approaching and downtime is increasing - how companies can prepare to stay productive.

planer with the written word planning

Winter is fast approaching, and so is a wave of sickness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), lost workdays and the related drop in productivity cost United States employers approximately $7 billion per year. The CDC reports that sick leave begins to be an issue in November, but peaks in the months of January and February.

And, it is not only sickness that can cause a hiccup in well-rehearsed work processes at this time of year; vacations should also be considered. Just as the season of employee illness starts to take hold, so too does vacation season. Through the holidays, a large portion of employees use their vacation time.

This means that companies need to begin preparing for the wave of illness and vacation requests now in order to make sure there are no nasty surprises in the weeks ahead.

So the time spent to address employee absenteeism is very high.

The Impact of Employee Absenteeism on Co-workers

As a recent study by the OTRS Group illustrates, more than half of all employees (51 percent) have to cover for someone who is absent several times a month. Nearly a quarter (23 percent) say they must represent a teammate every week. In Brazil, over 34 percent say they have to step in for a colleague each week, while in Germany it’s 21 percent and in the U.S. it’s just 14 percent.

The biggest challenge with temporary representation for 37 percent of respondents is finding the necessary background information. This is followed by understanding a task’s status (34 percent) and knowing who to contact in order to move the task forward (25 percent).

The additional time required to cover another’s role is also significant: 38 percent spend at least one additional hour a day to help out; 11 percent spend over two hours. 27 percent say they must extend their workday by one to two hours per day when their colleague is not around.

So the time spent to address employee absenteeism is very high. Given that this time is required in addition to core work tasks, it’s no surprise that frustration results when a colleague gets sick. What often happens too is that the person who provides the coverage and does the extra work does not receive recognition for his additional activities, thereby increasing the level of dissatisfaction in the workplace.

It’s important to note that the results of the survey also take into account vacation coverage. Whether absence is due to illness or due to the holiday season, companies must prepare so that important customer inquiries can continue to be addressed in a timely and effective manner regardless of how many team members are available.

Defining and implementing solid processes is the key to making work flow more smoothly, regardless of whom is available to handle it.

Ticketing Makes Coverage Easier

Of course, we cannot prevent employees from becoming ill, and we certainly want our everyone to enjoy their hard-earned time off. Still, there are ways for companies to structure business processes so well and transparently that when one employee must cover for a colleague it won’t be hard to spontaneously take on these extra tasks. Defining and implementing solid processes is the key to making work flow more smoothly, regardless of whom is available to handle it.

Once they have been defined, transfer them to a cloud-based ticket system where all requests, problems and communication processes can be stored and automated. Using a ticket sytem ensures that all information about requests or inquiries gets stored in a ticket – comparable to paper folders in which all documents relating to a task or request are kept neatly together. This way representatives who are covering have quick and easy access to all details related to any task.

The benefits of such a system continue when the colleague who was out of the office returns to work. If there’s more to be done on a particular ticket, the person who was covering can add a note with details about what happened while the colleague was sick or on vacation. He or she can even set a reminder on the ticket so that the returning teammate knows exactly when to pick up the task and continue it, allowing people to seamlessly return to their jobs.

By carefully thinking through your processes and automating them in a ticket system, successful companies – and their customers – always stay up-to-date on what’s happening and can maintain productivity in the workplace despite the absence of key employees due to illness or vacation. We wish you a continued productivity throughout the season and quiet contemplative holidays.