Employee absenteeism can have various negative consequences on a business. In fact, to an extent where it affects a company's overall profitability and productivity.

Absenteeism can be even more detrimental in these two situations:

  • When an employee misses work during busy times of the year.
  • When deadlines on particular projects are quickly approaching.

While there are some reasons like jury duty, observance of religious holidays, and disability leave that are unavoidable, some workers abuse the laws that legally protect them from being punished for missing work.

Companies understand that employees may miss work for reasons beyond their control, but missing more than a reasonable amount of work can harm a business in more ways than one. Productivity decreases, which can affect the bottom line of any business.

It’s estimated that employee absenteeism costs business owners $3600 yearly per hourly employee and $2650 yearly for every salaried employee.

What is employee absenteeism?

Employee absenteeism is the habitual or continual absence from the workplace. It can be a sign of disengagement and may indicate that a business’s employees are not interested in their work or the company itself.

This can be caused by low morale or employees feeling burnt out and disconnected from their tasks. It cannot be solved entirely but can be improved using a few key strategies.

Examples of employee absenteeism

There are many reasons why an employee may regularly be absent from work. Often, this is due to detachment from their role, but there can also be other underlying factors.

Some examples of employee absenteeism include:

  • 🤒 Illnesses or injuries: When an employee is sick or injured, doctor’s appointments and recovery can be a reason for absenteeism in the workplace.
  • 💼 Job hunting: If an employee is unsatisfied with the current job (for different reasons), they may seek other employment opportunities, missing work to attend job interviews.
  • 📅 Inflexible schedules: Organizations that do not allow employees to work from home occasionally tend to see a high absenteeism rate.
  • 👶 Childcare and eldercare: An employee may be absent for many days at work if they cannot find other alternative care for their children or adults that they are responsible for.
  • 🧠 Mental illness: According to a study published in the NCBI (National Institute of Mental Health), depression is the leading cause of absenteeism.
  • 😔 Disengagement: Employees who are no longer passionate about their job are more likely to be absent due to a lack of motivation.
  • 😮‍💨 Burnout: Overworked employees can fall sick due to a lack of appreciation, high stress, or high-pressure levels.
  • 🥺 Harassment: Employees that are constantly picked on or singled out, whether by other employees or senior managers, are more likely to miss work to escape the bullying.
  • ⏰ Time theft: Taking long breaks, coming in late, or leaving early, instead of taking a whole day off are also considered absenteeism.
  • 🧓 Age: On average, younger people are more likely to miss more work than older people.

7 Successful strategies to reduce employee absenteeism

To help you overcome the absenteeism challenges, make sure to follow these tips:

1. Survey your employees to understand the reasons for absence and know the root cause of absenteeism

  • The first step to tackle the problem of absenteeism is to find out what the cause is. Is it workplace-related, or are your employees dealing with something in their personal lives?
  • Keep the lines of communication open with employees and find out if there are any changes that you can help with.
  • When employees return from long leave, such as maternity leave or extended sickness, it’s good to talk to employees about their return.
  • Based on the return to work interview, you can take appropriate actions to ensure that the employee is ready to return and get the employee back in the swing of things at the workplace.

2. Create personalized plans for each team facing the problem of absenteeism. Reasons for it in the marketing team could be vastly different from the customer support team

  • If a specific department has absenteeism challenges due to health issues, then the solution for it will be completely different when compared to a department that has the same challenge, but with a different underlying reason of low morale or employees looking for other job opportunities.
  • In a workplace or department where employees fall sick more often, introduce an option for a flexible schedule or opportunities to work from home.
  • Let's say your marketing team is experiencing significant jumps in absenteeism. It could be due to the lack of communication for the project, its goals, unattainable due dates, or the way team members interact. In this situation, you may create a personalized plan that involves team building, communication skills, and perhaps a more flexible project time frame.
  • On the other hand, if a customer support team is seeing unacceptable levels of absenteeism, it may fall to the stress of communicating with customers. One way to ease the pressure of a customer service team is to allow longer breaks, create a more thorough script, or implement an automated system that answers the basic customer questions while leaving only the complex issues for customer service representatives.

3. Implement a wellness program. Prioritize physical, emotional, and mental health

  • Offering a comprehensive workplace wellness program can reduce absenteeism and improve employee engagement. If your teams work in a high-stress environment, find out ways to destress them at work and help them prioritize mental wellness.
  • When mental, emotional, and physical health is addressed, engagement and workplace attendance can and more than likely will naturally improve.

4. Offer vacation days and paid time off

  • Offering paid sick leave, paid paternity/maternity leave, and other paid time off makes employees want to remain with your company and be more engaged. Implementing paid leaves and giving me time can help reduce absenteeism.
  • Paid sick leave helps reduce absenteeism and gives employees the flexibility to stay home when they feel under the weather. This also prevents other employees from potentially becoming sick. This is especially true during the COVID times. It allows employees time to quarantine and recover from their sickness. Paid sick leave can significantly affect an employee’s decision when they return to work.

5. Consider flexible hours and prioritize work-life balance

  • Offering a flexible schedule to employees will increase their engagement, rekindle their passion for the job they once had, or even ignite a passion that never began in the first place.
  • With the increased popularity of Zoom and other Zoom alternatives, working from home is easier than ever. Meetings don’t have to be held in a conference room anymore.
  • Some companies have even found that moving to a 4-day work week increases productivity and decreases the chance of employee absenteeism.

6. Improve employee morale with recognition, appreciation, and gratitude

  • Implementing a reward program is a great motivator for employees to stay engaged and reduce absenteeism.
  • While you cannot avoid a few absences, a reward program can keep your employees motivated and engaged in the job at hand.
  • When employees are recognized for their work, it boosts their morale. Make sure to recognize and reward employees with the best attendance record.
  • Increase engagement by celebrating employees' birthdays at the workplace. Sending a simple thank you card, an appreciation letter, or even a personalized gift to your employees can make them go above and beyond the call of duty. In addition, organize extra-curricular team-building exercises from time to time.
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Simply recognizing a job well done, or even just their presence in the workplace, can boost morale and, in turn, increase productivity. Supporting employees through challenges can make employees feel more upbeat and more engaged in their work.

7. Create an environment that fosters healthy dialogue, connection, collaboration, and feedback

Collaboration can enhance performance and create a healthy relationship between employer and employee. Creating opportunities for open dialogue can ensure a smoother workflow for everyone, improve productivity, and boost morale on all sides.

Encourage collaboration at the workplace in the following ways:

  • A diverse workforce can create an environment where people from different backgrounds can collaborate and come to a common ground.
  • Maintaining a respectful environment and encouraging this behavior are essential for effective collaboration.
  • When conflicts arise, create a psychologically safe environment where employees can be open with each other and be able to solve issues among themselves.
  • It becomes even more complicated when employees don’t believe in the company or organization they work for. So make sure to build trust with your employees.

How to tackle employee absenteeism to a bare minimum

The amount of absenteeism that a company or organization can tolerate varies from employee to employee, company to company, and sometimes, the time of year.

One primary key to reducing absenteeism is ensuring that the attendance policy is clear and understood by all current employees and new hires.

Employers can also discourage employees from being absent by taking proactive steps like:

  • Rewarding good attendance
  • Providing emotional and physical health support
  • Focusing on work-life balance
  • Creating a flexible schedule
  • Providing opportunities to work from home
  • Keeping communication open
  • Encouraging collaboration
  • Requesting feedback periodically
  • Reducing stress in the workplace
  • Having a clear attendance policy

When employees are absent, it puts more pressure and a more significant workload on others. Not just that, it creates a higher cost for the employer too. With excess absence, the company might go on about finding replacements or perhaps, paying others overtime to cover for the absent employee temporarily.

With overtime pay costing the employer more money, this can significantly reduce the profits and increase the job cost for the employer.

When there’s an environment that employees don’t want to be absent from, they are more likely to be present. Creating a healthy and stable environment for employees is the best way to reduce absenteeism in the workplace.

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