An incapacity to work causes stress for employees. For the employer, even a brief period of incapacity is costly. This sum only grows if the incapacity to work is prolonged and becomes permanent.
Incapacity to work is also a risk for self-employed persons and can even result in the business going under. It is possible to reduce unexpected problems by preparing for them ahead of time. Promoting wellbeing at work begins with small acts. By avoiding the most common mistakes described below, you can preemptively tackle issues that affect wellbeing at work.
Mistake 1: Ignoring the growing frequency of sick leaves
An increase in sick leaves is a signal that everything is not well.
Work ability often deteriorates slowly over time. An increase in the frequency of sick leaves may be indicative of problems that could eventually result in an incapacity to work. Early intervention plays a key role in reducing sick leaves. Responsible businesses should have a plan in place for situations where there are signs that an employee’s work ability is deteriorating. In particular, mental health issues will slowly undermine work ability.
According to the Finnish Centre for Pensions, incapacity to work is caused most often by mental disorders, musculoskeletal disorders, neurological disorders and cardiovascular disease.
Since 2000, mental disorders have been the most common cause of incapacity to work. It is never too early to start improving wellbeing at work.
Mistake 2: Failing to address burnout in time
Burnout can lead to an incapacity to work if the issue is not handled in time.
Burnout creeps its way in stealthily. Identifying factors that contribute to wellbeing at work may be difficult for employees, let alone the employer. Far from uncommon, around one in four employees suffer from minor burnout. It is at this point that addressing the issue is important in order to avoid a more serious burnout.
What if burnout becomes prolonged? Some 2 to 4 per cent of employees suffer from severe burnout. Often, the situation has become serious enough that partial or permanent incapacity to work is just around the corner. Don’t ignore the signs of burnout.
Address the issue if you notice
- severe and constant fatigue
- a sense of work losing its meaning
- a drop in self-esteem and a growing feeling of inadequacy.
Mistake 3: Treating employees’ wellbeing as their own concern
The wellbeing of employees affects everyone at home and at the workplace.
While each employee is responsible for their personal wellbeing, the employer also has a duty to take care of employees’ work ability. If the employer neglects their responsibility, employees’ work ability may slowly become worse over time. The wellbeing of the entire work community can suffer if no attention is given to the work ability of individual employees.
Managers and supervisors have a particular role in helping ensure an employee’s ability to work despite difficulties. Supervisors can promote employee wellbeing and prevent incapacity with the following methods, for example:
- speak openly about burnout and workload even when no signs of danger are present
- if an employee has problems with work ability, tell them about available options, such as occupational health care
- together with the employee, investigate and fix the issues that cause excessive workload
- keep in touch with employees who have taken part-time leave due to disability
- make sure that a plan is in place to help the employee return to work after part-time disability.
Mistake 4: Incapacity to work affects the company only temporarily or not at all
Incapacity for work, whether partial or permanent, is always costly.
An employee’s incapacity to work results in expenses to the employer regardless of the size of the company. The smaller the business, the more severe the effects of an incapacity to work are on the company’s bottom line and operations. Reducing sick leaves is advantageous to companies of all sizes.
Incapacity to work is not a rare issue in workplaces. In Finland every year, around 20,000 people leave on permanent disability pension. The number of employees and self-employed people suffering from shorter periods of incapacity to work is significantly higher.
An employee who takes part-time leave due to an incapacity to work receives sick pay from the employer. If the incapacity is prolonged, Kela pays the employee a sickness allowance for about one year. After one year of incapacity to work, the employee may apply for disability pension.
Voluntary disability insurance helps ensure that your company’s finances do not suffer excessively if an employee becomes incapacitated to work.
If you are self-employed, remember to also make sure that you are yourself insured. Disability insurance secures your and your family’s livelihood.