How a focus on employee wellbeing can help to reduce absence and improve performance

A renewed way of working has been thrust upon businesses over the past couple of years. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought with it a new perspective on the way people work, the way people need to work, and how they can work at their best. In this article, we explore how businesses can help reduce absence by focusing on employee wellbeing.

How a focus on employee wellbeing can help to reduce absence and improve performance


As the pandemic started, businesses stepped up to ensure as many employees as possible could work from home. The increase in home working is enabling a massive reduction in commuters, reducing stress and fatigue, and saving valuable time. But, at the same time, clear boundaries have been needed for homeworking employees to avoid more stress and the likelihood of burnout.

Apart from absence relating to the pandemic, homeworking seems to have had a positive effect on general absence levels in most organisations, with the UK sickness absence rate falling to 1.8% in 2020- the lowest recorded since the Office for National Statistics reporting began in 1995. Although homeworking has been a welcome convenience for many, it has also been a tough change for others. There needs to be some fine-tuning to ensure work-life and home-life, including things like childcare responsibilities, don’t clash.

Mental health

As a result of the pandemic, HR professionals will be facing the challenge of supporting those suffering from long Covid. The challenge is also to keep the health and wellbeing conversation going in the boardroom, as we move beyond the pandemic. Optimistically, there has been greater focus on looking after employees’ mental health in response to Covid-19, with 84% of employers having taken additional measures, according to the CIPD’s Health and Wellbeing at Work report (2021). Many organisations have adopted a personalised approach, by homing in on looking after employees’ mental health with more tailored support to address individual requirements. 


We believe wellbeing is an important driver for good performance, and therefore productivity. If employees feel well, they will be able to perform well at work. Similarly, if an employee is experiencing health concerns, naturally this will have a negative impact on their performance. Decreased performance can lead to employees feeling demotivated – it can easily become a vicious circle.

It’s important for employers to make the connection between better wellbeing and improved performance. Here are three ways to help reduce absence, through supporting employee wellbeing.

1. Rethink performance discussions

Managers have a critical role to play in influencing how an individual feels about their working life. From creating the right environment for people to thrive in, to being the first port of call when an employee is unwell or struggling with their health and wellbeing. Mental ill-health is still one of the most common causes of long-term absence and high on the list of short-term absence too.

Discussions should be frequent – once a fortnight or once a month may be enough. Regular check-ins with employees can help you track their work-life balance in relation to how they’re feeling physically and mentally. Life issues can directly impact work so it’s important to make sure employee wellbeing is a top priority in discussions.

2. Establish flexible working

With more people working from home, it’s encouraging that nearly three-quarters of organisations are providing new or better support for those working from home, according to the CIPD’s research. However, it’s important to consider that homeworkers may be juggling home-schooling or childcare responsibilities, adding to the pressure in new ways. Providing the right support and flexible shift patterns can help to alleviate these issues, enabling employees to be productive.

3. Provide health benefits

If you don’t already, consider offering a benefit designed to support better wellbeing. A health plan can improve access to healthcare for employees, so they are empowered to look after their health. This means they can stay healthy and continue to perform well at work.

There’s a clear connection between wellbeing and absence, and it’s important for employers to understand the effects they can have on each other. Supporting employees’ health and wellbeing, could be the first step to improving workplace performance and attendance.

You can find articles and further information on health and wellbeing strategies on the Simplyhealth Insights Hub.

This article is provided by Simplyhealth.

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