Paid time off is an important part of benefits administration for a reason, but when workers are gone for a long period of time, their employers often need to do some juggling with workloads and may even bring in new employees to keep up with work. According to a new study of ongoing research by the Integrated Benefits Institute, a health and productivity research organization, the longer employees are gone, the more complicated employee management becomes for the company. For human resources departments, it can be difficult to be tasked with having to find short-term workers quickly to replace absent employees and to help managers maintain productivity among their teams due to staff members taking on additional work.
Determine Actions for Long Absences Ahead of Time
IBI's study, which is the first in the series "The Impact of Health on Job Performance and Productivity," found the shorter worker absences are, the fewer changes there are to the workplace.
During the first week of a single member of the workforce being gone, managers tend to do little in response. When an employee is gone for a day, 82 percent of managers tend to do nothing, 9.5 percent end up reassigning that day's work to the absent employees' co-workers and 9.5 percent call in additional employees as substitutes. Yet the number of supervisors who lay low when workers are absent drops the longer employees are gone from the workplace. When the absence extends to three days, 29 percent of managers give other members of the team additional work, and the number of bosses who bring in substitute workers rises to 18 percent.
"Managers may assume that, for a short-duration absence, the absent worker can make up the time or the impact of lost work will be relatively low," said Kimberly Jinnett, author of the study and executive vice president of IBI. "But as duration increases, the impact becomes hard to ignore and the manager responds."
When the duration of absence has reached one month, managers tend to move away from simply reassigning work and bringing in substitute employees and toward more permanent approaches, such as recruiting new staff members all together.
HR professionals should have practices in place for when workers are away from the workplace for short and long durations of time. When employees have already been gone for a month, HR departments need to already have a good idea of what their actions need to be. Human resources always have to take employment legislation into consideration. For example, if the worker is taking protected leave, it can be a bad idea for managers to look to replace that employee on a permanent basis. The more information about the situation that HR professionals have, the better they will be able to provide legal, long-term solutions that benefit the entire workforce. HR departments can also help managers understand their options and provide ways to keep the team's productivity up until the absent employee returns or is replaced.