Sick Leave: How to ensure the best management capabilities

blog

Simon Dragsbæk

I am a young developer with high ambitions for the work I do, and passionate about moving the web forward. I want to build web applications that run equally good on all devices and have all the information that they need and cuts away the bullshit.

2019-01-17 | Simon Dragsbæk

The other day I read an interesting article on sick leave in Norway. Due to a change in legislation employees are now able to report in sick digitally. Without addressing subjects like trust or agility I want to talk about another aspect of this development:

Training and preparation of leaders in businesses to meet this kind of digitalisation in every day of work.

Normally we talk about onboarding of new employees but since the development of every employee at a company is (or should be) a continuous thing, the training to meet new demands is just as important as the new hire.

A company without employees is very rare but almost as rare is a company without leaders and managers. What the best type of leadership and management are is an ongoing and subjective discussion. Reality is that there seldom is a truly correct way to be a leader or manager other than being just the type that is needed in the situation you are in at just that moment.

THE LEADERSHIP CHALLENGE

Back to sick leave. Back in the days in Denmark, way before e-mail and text messages were common means of communication, you could report in sick in two way; meet at the workplace and to call on the phone. You could, of course, send a letter, but I have never heard about anyone doing that.

In many larger companies employees are still to report in sick by phone. Less strict workplaces allow for e-mails to be used, and depending on the relationship to the nearest leader a text message is sometimes acceptable.

But what can be done before and after a sick leave? Several things actually. In order to meet the employee in the best possible way, training of managers and leaders in other things like sick leave interviews, training in conflict management, overall HSE knowledge and application should be a part of the general onboarding of new and existing management staff.

It is not about arranging courses for entire groups every other week. that would not make sense financially or in any other sense. A more structured approach is needed. It could be:

  • Assess the level of knowledge in the new leader or manager within the first days of employment
  • Assess the existing leaders' knowledge and know-how into all sickness related subjects within your business
  • Consider the 'before, during and after' an employee reports in sick
  • Set up guidelines, not processes or SOPs, for how to handle the 'before' situation
  • Create a grading scale for sickness
  • Coach on considering the workplace and how it could enable e.g. employees suffering from stress coming back to work part-time, and
  • train leaders and management in seeing where a soft-comeback employee could benefit (not giving them time-critical assignments, sticking to work they already know, and so on)
  • If work relies on shift work then pre-empt health-related issues by enabling the employees to learn more about basic physiological needs like eating healthy, sleep and exercise.
  • Training in how to communicate, both on a general "leader and employee" level, but especially on tough conversations. This to ensure that the individual leader knows how to conduct productive conversations without over-stepping boundaries too far into the personal lives of the employees.

This list is, of course, not exhaustive.

The most important thing to remember is to create timely and targeted training for the new and existing leaders. So like any other part of your business, you need to know what you have before you can plan and execute on what you need. In this case, a mapping of the internal competencies is a must.