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The HR Professionals Guide to Employee Absenteeism

10 min read   |  
Last Updated on

Running a business in today's time is like arranging the pieces of a giant puzzle. A puzzle where the scattered pieces resemble your workforce and their aspirations. And if any of the pieces go missing, the entire picture remains incomplete. Well, having said that, the issue of employee absenteeism in the workplace is no different here.

As an HR personnel or a manager, it's a typical scene to find one or two empty seats in your workplace. You might approve your employees' leave applications and allow them some time for themselves in most cases. Or sometimes, the employees may go on leave without any prior notice, which is acceptable under certain circumstances that may vary from one organization to another.

However, things do become unusual when such unexcused absences rise. And it indeed becomes more alarming when the same set of employees start making excessive absences without any proper reason.

But before beginning with the reasons and the remedies. Let’s first understand what it is actually with these questions and answers listed below.

What is Employee Absenteeism?

Employee absenteeism is defined as the frequent absence of an employee from his or her work. This absence is often categorized as a habitual absence that excludes authorized leaves or paid time off.

It is not easy to show up for work every day. The companies recognize this fact, and in case of emergencies and health issues, they have leave policies for employees. But when those off days are frequent, it becomes a problem and is absenteeism.

Employee absenteeism is a serious concern. Especially, those skipping workdays and arriving late at work often add up to a high absenteeism rate. Such conduct leads to a loss of productivity and low morale of employees. Yet, companies fail to address this killer at the bottom of the track.

Who Does it Affect - The Employers or The Employees?

Well, unscheduled absences from work affect both the employers and the employees.

Employers are often left understaffed in the workplace when employees start making excessive unexcused absences. It heightens employers' liabilities in the form of additional labor costs that they need to endure to cover up the lost productivity due to the absent employees' missed work hours.

It also increases the workload on the remaining workforce, which later turns up as workplace dissatisfaction and other such related issues.

For employees, apart from seeing a few bucks less on their paycheck, they tend to lose their value as diligent members of the organization. And if these employees continue with their unscheduled absences, they'll most likely end up losing their jobs.

How Much does Employee Absenteeism Cost Employers Globally?

According to a publication by circadian, the cost of unscheduled absences amounts to up to $3600/yr for each hourly employee and appx. $2500/yr for regular salaried employees.

I guess now you might have already gauged the seriousness of this issue. But how do you know if you’re facing the same in your workplace?

Well, there can be many common reasons where an employees' absence is totally justified. These reasons include sick days, social engagements, authorized vacations, or job-related engagements outside the workplace.

However, it does become suspicious when an employee calls in for sick leaves multiple times within short durations. And more if they go absent from work unannounced to the management. However, it isn't right to assume that he or she just wants to skip their duties. This is where the need for a robust employee absence management system arises.

Your employees might not be at fault, but in the bottom line, it’s your responsibility as a manager to check with them if everything is alright.

The Impact Of Transformational Leadership In Employee Absenteeism

Every organization has its own way of doing things with definite protocols for managing various functions and handling crises which includes the issue of employee absenteeism too.

British researchers found that transformational leaders and managers, who put time and effort into knowing the employees personally, are well-equipped to handle employee absenteeism.

Transformational managers are supportive, show an impeccable work ethic and behavior that sets an example for the employees to follow them.

When you know or try to know your employees, it builds good rapport and transparency. This practice gives them space to talk and understand the employees on their absences directly. And what measures should be adapted to reduce employee absenteeism?

You definitely cannot ask or implement absenteeism and work ethics policies when you do not follow the rules. Transformational managers aim to transform the culture and build a workspace where every member can thrive together. That is why the solution to employee absenteeism often lies in Employee Engagement and Employee Morale.

Let's get to know how?

Employee Engagement

Employees who are disengaged find ways to miss their work. Because they don't enjoy the work, they do or don't feel appreciated, showing up becomes difficult. The fact that job satisfaction is essential for workers to succeed and remain engaged is purely psychological. Practicing, hearing, and strategizing a culture of transparency with employees is a great way to reduce absenteeism.

Here are a few things you must keep in mind -

  • Give your employees the liberty to choose their own work.
  • Don't practice micromanagement.
  • Appreciate their efforts and help them see the greater picture behind their work.
  • Instill a sense of belonging in their mind and heart.

By following up on the points mentioned above, you would have an engaged and productive team.

Employee Morale

Through their job and work environment, workers seek satisfaction. It triggers them to take more absences when the morale of employees is low.

Employee morale can now decline for various reasons, but negative work culture is the most prevalent cause. A work culture where team members don't get along or respect each other is unproductive and unhealthy.

Team building activities or team lunches can be arranged by managers to allow team members to get together and create a good relationship.

Related: 8 Ways To Improve Employee Morale in Your Workplace

The 8 Notable Reasons for Employee Absenteeism

1. Low Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is a vital part of the 21st-century work culture. In the shorter term, corporations follow the practice to bring employees closer to their workplace. Employees who feel connected to their workplace are more likely to perform better than others who are not. Having low or no employee engagement at work is one of the key reasons behind an employees' unscheduled absences.

2. Time Theft

Absenteeism doesn't always mean being absent for a whole day or two at the workplace. Employees taking unnecessary long breaks, coming late, and leaving too early also implies absenteeism. This also raises questions on employees' dedication towards their work, leaving a wrong impression about them.

3. Lack of a Flexible Work Schedule

Flexible working has become a necessity rather than a privilege for professionals across businesses. Employees have their own social and personal commitments that they need to abide by to enjoy a sound work-life balance. In such a case, the lack of a flexible working schedule can cause the employee to miss out on work to follow up on their responsibilities.

4. Workplace Burnout

Burnout is one of the major reasons for ill-performance displayed by the employees. This mostly occurs when employees are subjected to rigorous and unscheduled working conditions. Most of the time, the issue of workplace burnout goes overlooked.

A good HR practitioner knows how important it is for the employees to find some time for themselves to rejuvenate. However, in most cases, employees are overexposed to work, sparing them no time for themselves. And in the long run, this leads to the degradation of their interest in their workplace.

5. Substance Abuse

This is something that is widely spoken but less discussed. Often employees succumb to unethical means of rejuvenation. Here, one of the most common examples would be alcoholism.

Employees lose track when they begin practicing substance abuse to let go of their stress. It breaks down the employees both physically and mentally by hampering their motor functions and their ability to think. Therefore, leaving them with no capacity to perform their duties wilfully.

6. Misuse of Seniority

When employees have been a part of the organization for a long time, they get accustomed to its operations. Being senior employees, they often do not feel the need to inform their counterparts about their absence. And this also counts as a mark of absenteeism from work. Therefore, as an employer, you must keep a check on such impromptu leaves.

7. Workplace Harassment

Workplace harassment is a preeminent issue faced by workplaces around the globe. Harassment can be either in verbal or physical form. Such problems hurt employees' emotional state and their mental health. This also causes a decline in the employees' interest in their work leading to absenteeism.

8. Mental Health Issues

All the reasons that I said above ultimately lead to mental health issues. Having sound mental health is one of the most important factors that help employees to showcase unbiased performance at work.

However, with the continuous rise in the workload across all industry sectors, having a balanced mental position does seem like a dream to many employees. Therefore, to escape the ill effects of this issue, many employees resort to skipping their work to find themselves some time to rejuvenate. And most often, this kind of leaves from work goes without prior announcement. Thus, leading towards low employee attendance rates at the workplace.

What Are the Remedies for Dealing With Employee Absenteeism?

Well, managing absenteeism can be made a lot simpler with a well-laid absence policy effective within the organisation aided by attendance management tools.

Such policies should clearly lay down the number of authorized leaves, paid time off, whom and when to approach for leaves, and the repercussions for illicit absences.

Here Are the 8 Ways to Reduce Absenteeism:

1. Workplace Surveys and Employee Opinions

Surveys and opinion are very important for solving problems. In fact, it is the foremost thing to do before heading towards a solution. Knowing how your employees think and feel about the workplace would give you more insight into the reasons leading to absenteeism.

A tip here when conducting these surveys would be to ask questions which you think would be related to the issue like:

  • Daily commuting means.
  • Any issues they’re facing in the workplace.
  • About the work schedule.
  • Personal issues or Elderlies at home to take care of.
  • Any ongoing medication or health issues.
  • Job Satisfaction and so on.

Or suppose the issue of absenteeism is limited to only a small group of employees. In that case, you can approach them personally throughone-on-one meetings.

2. Flexible Work Schedule

Adopting a flexible work schedule is a necessity for every modern-day workplace. Such arrangements let the employees stay connected to their work. At the same time, it also allows them to keep a check on their personal commitments. And it's undeniable that employees who enjoy a better work-life balance outshine others with their performance.

After all, employees with better work-life balance outshine others with their performance. Therefore, employers should take adequate measures to ensure the same in their workplace.

3. Grievance Cells

Like I said earlier, the reasons for employee absenteeism can be serious and unusual. Every workplace should constitute a grievance cell or entrust someone to keep an eye on the discipline in the workplace. This becomes very crucial for tackling issues related to workplace bullying and harassment.

Having such a body at the workplace would help the employees come out of their stigma and open up about their problems. This will boost their confidence and discourage their absence from work.

4. Employee Engagement Programs

Employee engagement programs help companies to keep their employees hooked to their workplace. These programs raise the standard of workplace operations by bridging the gap between employees and their employers. It also makes the employees feel privileged about being a part of the workplace with various activities and benefits.

Employee engagement activities can be improvised based on the workplace needs and size of the workforce. Acknowledging employees’ efforts and appreciating them is also a viable way to reduce absenteeism in the workplace.

5. Employee Wellness Programs

The rapid increase of workload on employees these days has made it almost impossible for them to spare some time for themselves. And in the long run, it leads the employees towards many health issues, which affects their presence at work.

However, employee wellness programs can help you out here in addressing this problem. These wellness programs are mainly designed to fit well with an employees' regular work schedule. And with today's cloud technology, executing such corporate wellness programs has become much more accessible than ever before.

Implementing such programs in your workplace will encourage employees to stay fit and healthy. Thereby ultimately improving their health and presence in the workplace.

Related: A Complete Guide To Corporate Wellness Program

6. Rewards and Incentivization

Rewarding and incentivizing the employee with a good attendance record is necessary for motivating the rest of the workforce. It would help boost employee morale when they realize that their presence in the workplace is highly appreciated.

You can opt for rewarding your employees with the best attendance every month. This will further motivate employees to come to work and stay engaged.

Related: The Ultimate Guide To Employee Rewards and Recognition

7. Return to Work Interview

Employees require long-term leaves in case of prolonged sickness, maternity reasons, or grief. Such leaves may sometimes cause a change of behavior, resulting in the decline of ones' interest in their responsibilities. Return to work interviews here helps you analyze if the employee is fit to resume his/her duties. Based on such analysis, employers can take appropriate measures to help the employee get back on track.

Also, you can arrange for an orientation session along with the interview to help employees get back in the work mood.

8. Proper Remuneration

Most of the time, employees take up side hustles to compensate for their poor remuneration. Even though it could be a hard thing for employers to accept but this is the truth. When they are engaged in such activities, they don't care much about their presence at work. And with the passing time, this indeed turns into absenteeism.

Therefore, providing the employees with proper remuneration for their work is also a crucial factor for keeping them hooked to their workplace.

Wrapping up

Employees’ are humans too, they fall sick, require time to rest and moments to spend with their loved ones. It would be wrong to say that an employee would be present at work all the time if everything at the workplace is set right. However, getting things right and making sure the employees are engaged in a healthy work environment is very important.

Mitigating employee absenteeism is a long-term process, even with the right policies. Employers must make it a point to support their employees and their aspirations within the workplace. If all the necessary steps are taken at the right time, it will benefit both the employee and the employer.

So, next time when you see that your employees are absent from work on a frequent you know how to tackle it now.

Working as a SEO Analyst and Content Marketer at Vantage Circle, Angshuman always stays curious and is passionate about learning new things. Got any question? Drop a mail at editor@vantagecircle.com

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