Absence – How can SME owners prevent an ‘always on culture’


The working world is gathering speed and the balance of work and down-time is becoming less easy to achieve and less likely to be a focus of employees as they thrive on their career development and success rates.

We are all trying to keep up

In most cases our clients have an open attitude to absence, expecting to be able to see if there is a problem and hoping that their employees let them know when they are feeling stressed or in need of down-time, but in reality many working environments are so fast-paced, highly-energised and driven to succeed that anyone not on the treadmill gets left out of the loop quickly.  A standard working week is no longer Monday to Friday it can be 24/7, we all have mobile devices that keep us in the loop whenever we request and a culture that means we want to be included and up to speed constantly updating our apps and email to see what’s going on.  Downtime is often still ‘online’ so there is still no real separation angle. This does then tend to lead to a mentality where we are all trying to keep up. If this is not managed properly it can lead to many more stress related absences and longer-term workforce management issues.

Business owners want action

I get it, it’s tough for business owners to change this mentality – they want action, if someone is thriving on working long hours to deliver and over achieving, why should that be a bad thing? The employee wants to develop and build their skills; the business gets the input and ultimately the success rates rise.  As a business owner myself I get it, I can really see why many of my peers will always ask…What’s the issue?


Setting a good example

Spin the situation round and we see it really is truly a short-sighted vision for your workforce and not a great example to set.  Short-term it leads to stress, anxiety, lack of sleep, separation all of this then potentially leads to workforce’s that don’t take their full holiday allowance to ensure they don’t miss out or lose work, more time out with stress and ultimately burn out.  It’s not a sustainable solution and makes for a stressed-out unhappy workforce that means; ultimately your business will lose them through absence, resignation or burn-out!

Helping to change this mentality has to come from the top, business owners, managers, mentors have to embed a sense of achievement and success, alongside the ability to be able to cut-off, switch off and take some time out.  We almost have to start retraining our workforce’s to encourage downtime to allow true focus when employees are working and cut off when they are not.  Always working – actively monitoring emails, apps and web traffic is not a healthy way of working.  There are many ‘switch off and slow down’ policies that are starting to work their way into the workplace, but many of these still aren’t taken seriously.

Personally I don’t think it’s a case of rolling out a policy and hoping that resolves things, I do believe it’s about setting an example, providing support and training to explain why switching off and taking your holidays is important; for well-being, for longevity and for business success and not just the employees… as a business owner or manager you need to lead by example.  It’s so important that you have down-time and are fresh and energised as you are responsible for the development and support of not only yourself, your business AND your workforce.

Start the day with a positive focus!.jpg

How you can prevent an ‘always on’ culture

Making sure your workforce has a way of raising any issues that enables them to seek support when they really need it is as important. There are many ways that we see this happening in the workplace.

  • Set up great management mentoring and support functions – someone they can turn to.
  • Utilise an Employee Assistance Programmes
  • Research more holistic solutions such as massage, relaxation programmes such as Yoga, chill out areas are important to give employees somewhere they can get away from work.
  • HR support for allocation and usage of holiday time to ensure employees are fully supporting in scheduling time out of the office.
  • Return to work support for those that are absent due to stress or illness.
  • Wellness training in house to help support your teams development
  • For the more serious levels of support many workplaces offer counselling support through their medical or EA programmes that can help directly with specific issues.


Fostering an always on culture is causing an absence epidemic.  Taking a break, especially a good chunk of time for a holiday, is extremely important for self-preservation but also enhances and refreshes your approach to things.  Often I see my team return from a holiday refreshed, energised and reengaged ready to get stuck back in and help the team. It’s a super-positive way of working and should always be encouraged.  As hard as it is as a business owner you must think bigger picture not just bottom line.

For more information connect up to our webinar – in conjunction with breatheHR


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