Even employees who have designated sick days often report feeling guilty, being asked too many questions, or otherwise being penalized for using them. That is why, according to a LinkedIn survey, workers took only 2.5 sick days, on average in 2018. We understand, especially when you are a small business, having even one person out, especially unexpectedly can be difficult for the whole team. But having someone come into work ill, is actually much worse.

Not only are these sick employees spreading germs and potentially getting other employees or even your customers and vendors sick, but they also aren’t performing at 100 percent. Not taking time off can also affect an employee’s ability to recover. Would you rather have an employee com in sick and work at 50-75 percent productivity for two weeks while they recover, or take a full day or two off and be back at 100 percent? Here are some tips from an article in Fast Company on how to structure your sick leave policies to improve performance and employee engagement:

Set a good example
Make sure the leaders on your leaders, including the business owner, model good behavior and take time off if they are ill. When leaders come into work sick, it makes employees think they should do the same.

Write a policy that makes employees feel safe
Give employees the benefit of the doubt and treat them like responsible adults. If you are using a standard boilerplate policy guide, it may not accurately portray the company’s actually stance on taking time off. While we complete support using a template to create a policy guide (you can find some of ours here), we also strongly recommend tailoring the policies in the guide to match your company language and your company culture.

Communicate, communicate, communicate
If you’ve modeled good behavior, and your policies are written in a way that make employees feel like they have a fair amount of leave, you may not have to do much more. But just to be sure, listen to what employees are saying about taking time off. Do they feel stressed about it? Think about (and ask them) what can you do to make them feel supported.

Recognize and reward positive behavior
When an employee does take time off to recover, make sure you use positive language surrounding their time off. Adopt the mentality that taking time away will allow the employee to come back and give their all.

Offering sick leave is a great benefit to employees and can help improve employee engagement and productivity. When you are structuring all of your paid leave policies, consider how you want those policies to be perceived by employees. Need help? Check out our Paid Time Off and Flexible Scheduling Toolkit for some great sample policy language.