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Fighting the Plague of Too Many Sick Days

Sick Days Are Not Days Off

Team explains attendance policy, boosts morale

Employees calling in sick was having a negative impact at the radiology lab.

Those serving the South San Francisco Medical Center and Daly City Medical Office Building had to work harder to fill in gaps.

Morale was sinking. And tired employees were vulnerable to getting sick, creating a downward attendance spiral.

Recognizing a crisis, the UBT issued an anonymous attendance survey and found there was widespread confusion about sick leave.

Wanting to encourage teamwork in improving attendance and to boost department morale, team members agreed to create department-wide goals, a department-wide educational effort, and a group celebration.

But the true aim was clear—help all staff members make their goals and encourage them to attend the party. They also wanted employees to have a clear understanding of expectations.

In setting the new targets in the attendance guidelines, the team defined clear goals. By announcing the guidelines at a staff party, it also set an upbeat tone, says labor co-lead Donna Haynes.

The new targets included:

  • no more than one tardy per two-week pay period (a tardy is three minutes past start time)
  • no more than two sick leave absences per quarter; and
  • no more than two 'danglers' (forgetting to clock in or out) per pay periods.

Supervisors met with each employee to review his or her attendance trends and to discuss concerns or needs. The staff found the meetings supportive.

"They asked, 'What can we do to help?’ They were trying to encourage you," says labor co-lead and lead mammography technologist, SEIU UHW, Adie Hoppis.

Employees who met the guidelines were invited to a quarterly lunch—complete with white tablecloths, silverware, wine glasses (for nonalcoholic beverages), music and catered food. Managers served the staff members.

"We're there to celebrate the staff," says Tracey Fung, service unit manager. "They were really floored. There had never been anything like this before in the department."

Hoppis says the lunches are a powerful positive reinforcement.

"They’re really nice. You’re treated special.”

With more employees at work, patient waiting time has decreased.

"Employees are happier, and patients are, too," Hoppis says.

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