Autumn is coming and with it the usual array of coughs, colds and sneezes. Here at Zen Educate, we have access to some interesting data on exactly when most sick days happen. Unsurprisingly, the number one day is Monday but you may be surprised to learn the second most popular day to take sick leave is on Thursday! Make of that what you will.

Being aware that Thursdays are a sick leave hotspot means you can factor this into any staff planning in the future. In addition to managing unexpected staff absences, what can be done to reduce sick leave as the colder weather arrives? To answer that we’ve gathered some of the best simple solutions from the world of education and put them together for you below:

1. Hand sanitiser and tissues on every teacher’s desk. Pocket hand sanitiser for staff.

This may seem obvious but the top advice from the NHS to avoid colds is “wash your hands often with warm water and soap” and that’s hard advice to follow in a classroom. Hand sanitiser is a good replacement option. Pocket hand sanitiser for each teacher can also be hugely beneficial to carry around the school and on their commute. The second piece of advice from the NHS is “use tissues to trap germs when you cough or sneeze”. These tissues can be used by students and teachers alike to reduce the chances of infection.

Here at Zen HQ, we make sure to do a bulk order from Amazon of this for every table and this for everyone’s pocket.

2. Better options in the staff room

Fruit contains important nutrients including potassium, dietary fibre, vitamin C, and folate (folic acid) that are all useful for overall health and avoiding colds. Many staff rooms suffer from over-reliance on the biscuit tin so ensuring fruit can be purchased on school grounds could have a significant impact on sick leave.

3. Plants for classrooms

Studies have shown that having plants in a classroom can reduce the amount of sick leave taken by pupils and staff. This seems to be for a number of reasons: reducing CO2 in the room, filtering out dust and increasing humidity. They are also shown to reduce stress, which can be a factor in immune system issues. On top of that plants are a fantastic way to teach pupils about nature, responsibility and community.

4. Flu jabs in school

In the past academic year, schools lost more than two million days to teacher sickness, according to the latest DfE figures. This could be avoided, in part, with flu jabs. You can ask a local pharmacist or online service to come into the school to give your teachers a flu jab at a cost of between £10-15 per person. This may seem like a lot, but the savings that can be gained even if just a small handful of your staff avoid the flu can more than pay for the cost many times over.

5. Have a direct line to the Head

Anecdotally this is one of the most effective ways to reduce sick leave. Rather than sending a text message to a colleague or calling a direct line manager, having to call through to the headteacher directly seems to reduce sick leave calls significantly. One Headteacher even fed back that it reduced sick leave by 50%. This data is intriguing and could be for any number of reasons - increased dialogue, empathy or something else entirely - why do you think it reduced sick leave so significantly?

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