The pandemic has dramatically changed the way we work. It has changed how we show up, clock in, take leave, communicate with our teams and our clients. It has fundamentally changed the way we rely on each other, our devices and ultimately the ways in which we get the job done. And now we’re discovering together what the great return looks like.
As you might imagine, the Absence Management Study released this year (2021), takes into account the many life-altering changes that a global pandemic brought to the employment landscape. The study showed that many employers are incorporating some best practices into their leave programs, which resulted in their ability to overcome the common challenges surrounding absenteeism.
Among those best practices is a robust Return-to-Work program. Many companies are looking toward the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to further expand their RTW programs. Gains in technology are offering employers more comprehensive data to inform their leave program decisions. For example, many successful companies have integrated the administration of their short-term disability (STD) plans with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). In the study, points were awarded to companies with a central portal for leave claims. It found that 54% of employers use a common portal for STD and FMLA, but only 24% use a common portal for STD, FMLA and all other types of leaves of absence.
Additionally, the study showed that companies that have been successful in reducing absenteeism, prioritize health management initiatives and show their employees that they’re invested in their wellness. Since 2014, there’s been a 73% increase in health management referrals. The study shows that many employees across all sectors are utilizing EAPs (Employee Assistance Programs) for disease management or mental wellness.
Despite these uncertain times, the study showed that there were many positive outcomes due to the emphasis of a successful and safe return to the workplace. Many employers are reporting that compliance is more of a priority than ever and have even outsourced administration to ensure company policies are in line with both state and federal regulations. What’s more is that employers feel more compelled than ever to support employees in returning to work that feels meaningful.
While there’s still work to be done when it comes to reducing absenteeism, positive strides are being made by employers even during the most complicated of times. The study indicates that the COVID-19 pandemic has shown employers the importance of streamlining processes and putting the wellness of employees at helm of their practices.