how to deal with absenteeism in the workplace

Human capital leaders are forever seeking ways to increase workforce productivity, so it’s common to see them championing initiatives such as worker upskilling, investing in AI-enabled tools, and implementing LEAN processes to raise efficiency. There is, however, one undertaking that companies often overlook that can significantly enhance output without spending a lot of resources or budget.

Absenteeism, which can have a detrimental impact on any organization, is well within the control of human capital leaders. Employees missing work due to illness, stress, family issues, job discontent may be an indicator of a larger workforce satisfaction issue or related concerns. Whatever the cause, companies can raise their workforce productivity through a range of actions designed to encourage and reward workers for excellent attendance.

The result of poor workforce attendance can have an impact on business and morale. For instance, unplanned absences can impact other workers, who may have to put in overtime and work harder when a colleague fails to come to work. When customer-facing employees are unavailable, it can disrupt the client relationship. Delays in projects and decision-making are inevitable results of absenteeism.

Taking absenteeism into consideration, here’s a comprehensive guide from Randstad to help you reduce absenteeism in the workplace and know how to properly invest in employee wellness.

strands of absenteeism

There are three separate strands to absenteeism:

  • authorized and planned for, such as holiday, maternity, or paternity leave
  • unplanned but genuine absence, such as sickness
  • unauthorized or suspect absence, which can also include lateness.

Each strand of absenteeism can differently impact the continued employment of the individual and the company’s productivity. It’s important for a company to identify excused and unexcused absences carefully.

causes of absenteeism

Employees utilize their absences for a lot of different reasons. Identifying the causes of absenteeism can help an organization address the problem properly. Here are some of the leading causes to watch out for:

job stress

One of the most common reasons why workers go missing is feeling stress from their job. A survey conducted by Cigna TTK Health Insurance Company revealed that 95% of millennials in India, between 18 to 34 years old, are stressed compared to the global average of 86%. Whether it’s having too much or not enough work, staying at the office for too long, enduring pressure to perform, or any other stresses, employees need regular respite from their jobs.

family care

Taking time off to take care of children, family members, and spouses is unavoidable, so some employees may prioritize their families over workdays, even if it affects the company’s absenteeism rate.

illnesses

Illnesses are unavoidable, but you can encourage healthier lifestyles through a robust wellness program that not only reduces absenteeism but also enhances performance.

bullying/harassment

Bullying or harassment are demoralizing to workers, not to mention that each infraction can put the company at significant civil and criminal risk. Bullied or harassed employees may utilize their absences more often.

Worker engagement/lack of interest

According to Gallup, just 13% of workers worldwide are engaged at work. Additionally, companies scoring in the top quartile of workforce engagement have 41% lower absenteeism rates than those in the bottom quartile. Gallup notes that with results like this, employers need to help raise interest in the workplace.

How to reduce absenteeism

Regardless of sector, absence levels tend to increase with the size of an organization. A company should then constantly improve its policies and strategies to reduce absenteeism. Here are proven ways to reduce absenteeism in the workplace, find higher engagement and retention, and boost business performance and growth.

identify problems through regular assessments

Most organizations don’t regularly examine employee attendance practices unless a problem arises, but that shouldn’t deter you from scheduling regular assessments. Just because line leaders haven’t noticed an issue doesn’t mean there isn’t one. Some telltale signs may be a spike in temp staffing spend due to unexpected absences, a sharp rise in the use of sick leave, growing family leave requests, and higher health insurance costs, among other signs. Furthermore, missed days may precede a spike in voluntary quits, which indicates a larger problem with management.

be flexible on persistent genuine absences

In the case of persistent unplanned but genuine absence, a meeting should be held with the employee to discover the reason behind the absences. For example, an employee may have personal problems, such as caring responsibilities, which can be overcome by forms of flexible working such as split shifts or working from home. It is important to remember that the employee might be reluctant to divulge problems for fear that it will affect the employer’s attitude towards them, so it should always be stated that the intention behind these meetings is to help.

conduct disciplinary proceedings for long-term absences

In cases of long-term absence, initiating disciplinary proceedings and even dismissal may be fair – but only after other options have been exhausted. It is also important to remember that if an employer has potentially contributed to illness, the organization may be liable. After a lengthy absence, it may be necessary to adopt a reintroduction policy such as a phased return to ease the employee back into the workplace.

gauge how absences affect the company

Once you have identified the types of absences affecting your company and how to deal with them, use the data to determine how they affect your organization. Do you need to resort to temporary staffing to fulfill the work necessary? Are project delivery dates being pushed back? Are your sales affected? Even in small ways – such as whether conference calls or meetings should be rescheduled due to one or more team members being out sick – should be considered in your broader assessment.

From there, you can begin measuring the extent of the problem. Start with a baseline – monthly number of missed days, for instance – to track the extent of absenteeism across your workforce. Then look at business units or functional groups that may exhibit particularly high levels of unscheduled absences. To get more granular, identify and follow individuals who have spotty attendance records.

invest in employee wellness

After assessments, meetings, and initial preventive measures, you might want to consider investing in employee wellness programs to ultimately reduce absenteeism.

Wellness programs don’t just promote healthy behavior; they also reduce absenteeism due to stress and illness, increase productivity, and lower healthcare costs. In a stressful world where depression and anxiety are increasingly common, wellness programs aren’t a luxury; they’re necessary.

It’s the responsibility of employers to create work environments that support health and wellbeing and ensure employees have the resources they need to set healthy goals and stick to them. Here are some ways to improve employee wellness within the workplace:

  • create opportunities for healthy eating
  • help employees stay active by arranging group activities
  • adopt sit-stand workstations, by providing ergonomic standing desks, fluffy chairs, exercise equipment, and more.
  • encourage mindfulness to help employees manage stress.
  • deal with serious health issues and encourage employees to stay healthy
  • bring in professionals, such as health consultants, psychologists, and nutritionists

randstad’s stand in absenteeism in the workplace

Absenteeism can be a significant or minor workforce management challenge for your organization. The degree to which it can affect company performance depends solely on how you assess, track, and remedy the issue. It may be the best time to consider employee wellness and other programs to improve the workplace environment as a necessity for organizations.

Look for more ways to improve your workplace management and organization at Randstad’s cache of HR solutions and resources to reduce absenteeism and address other workplace issues.

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