Absenteeism highest in 20 years, major concerns about dropout due to stress and burnout 

(Source: AD Jan. 19, 2023) Absenteeism among corporate and government employees rose to 4.8 percent last year. This is the highest rate in 20 years. Specifically, it means that out of every thousand working days, 48 were absent due to illness. In particular, psychological absenteeism is

The number of Dutch people struggling with gloomy feelings, stress and other psychological complaints rose to record levels in 2022. Figures for Q1 2023 are still missing, but the number is not expected to have dropped. Of all women aged 12 years and older, 18 percent said they were experiencing mental health problems; of the men, 12 percent reported it. In both cases, the percentage was not this high before.

(Preventive) use of experts

Within Panthion and ViaMensa, we also see a marked increase in (more complex) absence cases and an increase in the sickness rate. From both organizations, we have been advocating a preventive approach for years : intervention when absenteeism is imminent, rapid deployment of coaching and psychological support and the deployment of an employment expert well before the first year of illness. Based on our experience, it appears that this preventive approach can prevent dropout from illness and/or greatly shorten dropout from illness. In terms of services, we offer solutions such as:

– Preventive use of a psychologist in cases of impending dropout;
Stress and burnout counseling;
– Outdoor walking coaching;
Employment expert deployment around the 8th month of illness;
– Deployment of a case manager to pursue all opportunities in existing absenteeism caseload and reduce absenteeism.

We like to spar (free of charge and without obligation) with clients about our (preventive) solutions and possibilities. You can do this by calling 085-4018200, info@viamensa.nl or whatsapp business on our homepage.

Years of trend

According to Jurriaan Penders, occupational physician, the growth in the number of people with mental health issues leads to higher absenteeism. “It is a long-standing trend that more and more people are sitting at home sick for long periods of time,” he said. “That’s not only because of work pressure, but also the pressure people feel in society, due to rising bills and polarization.”

People who always functioned well are falling over or in danger of falling over. They become overworked and at risk of burnout. An employee with burnout is out of work for an average of 279 days. ”Both short-term and long-term absenteeism requires employers and employees to engage with each other.” ,,By looking ahead together at what is needed, you find faster and better solutions. A health and safety service can support an employer in having these conversations and establishing a health and safety policy to prevent absenteeism.”

According to the professional association of occupational physicians (NVAB), something must be done soon or else many staff will soon be sitting at home overworked. “Occupational physicians see the effects of staff shortages and high workloads on a daily basis,” NVAB President Boyd Thijssens said just last summer. ”People who were always functioning well are falling over or in danger of falling over. They become overworked and at risk of burnout.”

Return of flu

In addition to the continued rise in psychological absenteeism, the return of the flu also caused a big boost in absenteeism. In December, the current flu wave led to almost a doubling of absenteeism due to flu-like symptoms compared to the previous month. And actual absenteeism is expected to be much higher. That’s because part of the flu wave coincided with the Christmas vacation. People who are sick during their vacation usually do not report it to their employer.

In the case of flu, health and safety services advise employers to look at measures to reduce the risk of infection in the workplace. ,,Think about w or not coming to work with symptoms, working from home for those who can, and in some cases offering the flu shot to employees in the fall. The positive impact of a simple measure can be large, especially in today’s tight labor market,” Penders said.

Regional carriers, among others, are struggling with structural absenteeism, some more than before the corona crisis, report carriers Connexxion and Arriva. Restaurants, cafes and hotels also suffer from the high number of sick people in the Netherlands. Staffing is even less available than it has been in recent months.

Impact of flu wave

The peak of absenteeism was in the week before the Christmas vacations. Back then, flu was the cause in nearly 40 percent of absenteeism reports. For every 1,000 workers, there were 78 new sick days compared to 74 in November. “It illustrates the impact the current flu wave is having on working Holland,” Penders said. ”Normally, vacation periods have a stronger dampening effect on the number of sick days. Partly because employees are less likely to call in sick while on vacation, partly because employers sometimes don’t report reports until later or not at all.”

According to Penders, the flu wave was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. ”The bucket was actually already full.

” How come absenteeism is higher than during the two corona years? ”That’s largely because of the preventive measures. We were working at home in lockdown. Then people are usually less likely to call in sick.”

The flu epidemic seems to have receded somewhat after peaking. Last week, 65 out of every 100,000 people visited the family doctor with flu-like symptoms, reports knowledge institute Nivel. A week earlier, it was still 103 in 100,000 people.

Back then, the Nivel was still talking about a wave of “moderate intensity,” but now we are back at the level below that: “low intensity. As a rule, a flu epidemic is said to exist when more than 58 per 100,000 people visit their family doctor with flu-like symptoms for several weeks in a row and the flu virus (influenza virus) is actually found in a significant proportion of them. This has been the case since about mid-December.

Last week, influenza virus was found in 37 percent of samples collected from patients with flu-like symptoms. The remaining patients carry other viruses, including, for example, rhinovirus and human metapneumovirus. Furthermore, coronavirus is also still found in people who go to the doctor’s office. The Nivel’s findings give a picture of how much flu is going around in the Netherlands, but the figures are not complete. After all, many people are sick at home from a flu or other infection and do not necessarily report to the doctor.

The highest flu wave in recent years was in 2018. At the height of that epidemic, 172 out of every 100,000 people reported to their family doctor with flu-like symptoms. During the corona pandemic, less flu went around than is normal for the winter season, most likely because of measures that limited contact between people. In the 10 years before the pandemic, a flu wave lasted an average of 13 weeks. The longest flu epidemic ever measured in the Netherlands was that of the winter of 2014/2015. This one lasted 21 weeks.

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