‘Skivitis’… beware it’s catchy

Skiving off work, can take many forms.  There are the easily recognisable moments in a working day when you know employees are not technically working – often termed ‘ low level’ skiving.  Then there is the more problematic ‘presenteeism,’ where people show up to work, but are not engaged and productive.  Even more serious to the business bottom line is the practice of employees taking non-genuine sick leave.  A small amount of ‘downtime’ has always been tolerated, for example a quick chat around the water-cooler, we are not robots after all.  However skiving should not be overlooked, as it is can be a real cost to your business.

Introducing a workplace code of conduct and clear policies on sick leave/reporting absence.  Policies outlining the company’s stand on such matters, will reduce frustration and assist employees to understand your workplace culture and work expectations.  Lets examine the business impacts of a couple of very common low-level skiving practices that we come across regularly.  There are more scenarios covered in the HRtoolkit Quick Guide to Sick Leave

Recently, I was visiting an apartment undergoing a re-clad in the two hours I was there I saw the worst presenteeism.  Three workers had 2 ciggie breaks, before their morning smoko, and another worker stood on the scaffolding, in front of me, having an argument on the phone with his girlfriend for 20 minutes.   I suspect the re-clad on that particular job will not come in on-time and to schedule.  Showing up to work is not enough!

What is your policy around smoking breaks? Cigarettes may take years off your life, but they can also easily steal 30 minutes or more of daily productivity from a few extra quick ‘ciggie’ breaks.

And what about the guy on the phone to his girlfriend? Mobile workers need smart technology, for productivity and safety reasons.  Technology is often criticised for encroaching on our personal time, with smartphones creating an always-on culture, but the opposite also holds true. We can literally sit at our desks and skive – sending personal emails, checking our bank balance, browsing social media, or chatting to our friends overtly or via text messaging/Facebook messenger or other apps.

As an employer it would not be a useful use of your time to be continually checking on workers and it’s simply not possible in the case of remote workers.  With all workers, there is a level of trust required, in addition you need to set the standards early in the employment relationship and formalise them in writing through good policies and a code of conduct).

A common misconception of employers to think they can just lead by example, and nothing else should need to be said.  However, people do not share all the same values, or motivations. Our cultural and family backgrounds vary, which all feed into shaping our understanding of work. Having a code of conduct, fleshes out the day to day issues that arise in the workplace and provides suitable guidelines on what the business expects.