The best medicine for productivity is support from supervisor and coworkers
The U.S. is losing approximately $225.8 billion per year due to absenteeism. A worker experiencing the stress of intense workdays might develop somatic symptoms, such as stomach ache or headache, which will eventually lead to taking leave of absence. But when the individual’s supervisor offers emotional and instrumental support, the employee is more likely to recover without needing to take that extra afternoon or day off.
The study was conducted in a manufacturing enterprise in China with a sample group of 241 workers. In China, there is significant distance between supervisor and employee, making it a particularly relevant context to examine the role of supervisor support relating to absenteeism.
The results showed that when the boss offers support in the form of, for example, a lightened work load or stress management training – it is more likely to keep the worker from taking sick leave. This is because the worker feels more inclined to reciprocate the supportive treatment by keeping their work effort high. “The worker who is given this sort of support is more likely to overcome the somatic stress and continue to work productively, leaving recovery for the normal after-work hours when we recharge our batteries,” explains Dr. Biron.
The study also shows the impact of coworker support early on: “We see from this study that employers can provide concrete support for employees experiencing somatic stress symptoms, but can also encourage coworkers to support one another in the first place and minimize the effects triggered by their workload,” Dr. Biron clarifies.
“With the enormous economic losses due to absenteeism and with this still being a poorly understood phenomenon, the results of this new study are shedding light on those factors influencing sickness absence and which can be considered in the effort to reduce the losses without compromising work ethic and commitment,” explains Dr. Biron.