‘Absenteeism: it’s all about attention,’ Nicoline Simonis, HR Specialist Absenteeism and Reintegration at Arkin

‘Ziekteverzuim: alles draait om aandacht’, Nicoline Simonis, HR Specialist Verzuim en Re-integratie bij Arkin

‘At Arkin, too, we recognize the national trend around sick leave. A trend that has started since the corona period. Fortunately, we see sick leave decreasing, albeit cautiously.’ Speaking is Nicoline Simonis, HR Specialist Absenteeism and Reintegration at Arkin, one of the larger mental health institutions in the Netherlands. One has a broad and varied expertise. ‘Within our organization, we put a lot of effort into prevention. This means that we want to identify problems as early as possible. Part of that, for example, are the periodic talks that our managers have with colleagues. And in addition to the fact that we actively look at how our people are doing, we are of course also dependent on the extent to which an employee picks up the phone himself.

Opportunities: from nice to have to need to have

‘Another action we take to keep people happy and sustainably employable are the training courses we offer. These have various themes: from ‘dealing with the transition’ and ‘the phase for young parents’ to a training course on ‘how to deal with work-related stress’. We also have an extensive portal where people can access information in many different ways. And, of course, our managers are also trained in various ways in this area, both for themselves and for recognizing early signs in colleagues that may indicate future absenteeism. Although I must say that what we offer, despite our good intentions, is not the solution. Absenteeism remains a challenging issue, no matter how much attention you pay to it.’

‘Furthermore, we distinguish between ‘nice to have’ activities and ‘need to have’ activities. An example of the first category, which we call the energizers, is offering yoga classes or going supping together on the water. These are activities that take place outside working hours. And we alert our people to the “good habits” platform, where you can find a lot of information about a healthy lifestyle online in an accessible way.

What is important for job happiness

Nicoline continues: “We also very consciously started a conversation with the individual teams last year about work happiness. What is important to our colleagues? What makes them happy? What causes stress? We asked those kinds of questions. We made a very specific distinction between teams where absenteeism was somewhat higher and those where it was somewhat lower, purely to discover whether we as an employer could play a more important role in this. What emerged clearly in all teams was that self-direction and autonomy in work during the day was considered important. Furthermore, the atmosphere in a building, the decoration of a particular room or the type of furniture can play a role, we learned. The latter then has mainly to do with the ergonomic aspect. By the way, we could not really detect a common thread, in terms of absenteeism, between the different teams. Furthermore, we are currently reviewing our absenteeism policy. This includes re-examining who has what responsibilities. So what can we as employers do and what should we expect from our employees?

Panthion in cases of long-term absenteeism

‘If at any point there is absenteeism then we engage Panthion in. This mainly occurs in cases where people have been ill for more than a year and there is no immediate prospect of recovery. Then a second track trajectory is usually started, in which a suitable job is looked for inside or outside Arkin. We have been working with Panthion since 2016, which was started on the advice of a work relation of mine who knew this agency. On the advice of this relation, I contacted them and that turned out to be a good decision. I soon felt that results were being achieved. This is partly due to the way owner Rik is fully involved in the activities. People are really busy with the files and the people involved. Sometimes people do get back to work and those are nice, positive results for all parties involved.’

The collaboration in a few words

‘When I would have to summarize this collaboration in a few words professional, involved and open to feedback come to mind naturally. In short, it is pleasant working with them. In the end, everything is about attention. That really is the magic word when you look at absenteeism. Attention to the employee. Attention leaders. Attention to recovery and also attention to and from Panthion as a good supervisor. To others, I would say that I think an agency like Panthion is only as good as the consultant you have contact with. I have a good click with Rik, for example, he thinks the quality delivered is very important. Just like me, by the way. And then he actively manages that. In this, and in the many other positives, we find each other as professional partners with the goal of dealing with the best possible reintegration to sustainable recovery and the people affected. And that is a particularly pleasant way of working together,” Nicoline concludes.

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