More Sick Days = Fewer Sick Days?

If you give your employees more control over their work schedules—including work hours, breaks, and days off—you may get more work out of them.

That’s the finding in a study performed by the University of Western Australia, anyway; and it’s not because they do math backwards in the Southern Hemisphere. It sounds counterintuitive, but the study showed that employees empowered with greater control over their work days were more productive. Such workers were much less likely to need extended leaves of absence in order to deal with problems like lower back pain.

Work: A Pain in the Back!

Lower back pain is the most common source of soreness in young to middle-aged adults, according to the study.  This includes both blue-collar vocations and desk jobs. Left alone, it becomes a chronic problem requiring lots of time and money, hurting employer and employee alike.

This pain can range from a dull ache to a piercing burn. Work-related back pain is caused by a variety of issues, such as:

  1. Prolonged mental stress
  2. Too much physical exertion—such as moving heavy objects or playing sports
  3. Too little physical activity—like sitting at a desk all day

Preventing Lower Back Pain as an Employer

So if both physical activity (and the lack thereof) contribute to lower back pain in the workplace, how can it be avoided? Simple: moderation. You should give employees who spend all day laboring in the sun opportunities to sit and rest.

People that spend most of their work day in one place should be allowed to get up, stretch their legs and have the occasional coffee break. If possible, let employees have control of their own work schedules. Giving them more control over their lives also reduces stress, another major contributor. Providing services like office yoga can reduce the likelihood of lower back pain. Insurance plans that cover massage and chiropractic visits will help minimize the risk and speed recovery should it occur.

Dealing with Employee Back Pain

One occurrence of severe back pain probably means there’s going to be another.  When employees take a sick day to see the doctor about back pain, it’s extremely important that they follow up regularly to ensure there’s no relapse.  And someone needs to make sure they’re doing that. Employers can improve the health of their employees with the occasional “how’s your back doing?” or “how was your last check up?” A simple “tisk tisk” for workers neglecting their medical care can prevent future bouts with back pain.

Think of bonus sick days as an investment, just like you would invest money to minimize loss or maximize profit; an extra day each month may pay dividends down the road.

 
  

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