Effective Ways of Managing Employee Absenteeism

Backlog, reduced productivity, and an eventual loss in income are just some of the effects of employee absenteeism. This article explains.

We might often think that employees being repeatedly absent only affects the organisation, but this is not true. It affects the rest of the staff as well.

The continually absent team member can harm team dynamics, pose a safety risk when less qualified employees are called to fill in for the absentee, and even affect morale. This behaviour can also catch on when others see that being absent is something they can get away with.

Employee absenteeism can also stunt employee growth. The employee in question will continuously miss out on the opportunity to learn and grow their skills.

While it is normal for people to be absent for reasons such as being sick, culpable absenteeism is when an employee misses work for no valid reason. Management has several options when it comes to controlling this type of absenteeism.

Get to the bottom of the problem.

Why are your employees or a particular employee staying away from work? There could be a myriad of reasons besides them just not wanting to come to work. Engage with the employee and find out if something is going on in their personal lives that is causing an increased demand on their time.

Do they have a sick parent or spouse, or is something else going on? Once you figure out the reason, you can begin to work out a way forward.

The reason for employee absenteeism may be work-related. If it is, management has a responsibility to get to the bottom of the source of frustration. Does an employee feel stressed out by an overwhelming workload? Or are they being harassed by a colleague?

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Tackle the problem – this will also send a message to the other employees that you are concerned about their well-being. Feeling that the company cares about them can increase workplace morale.

Have an employee absenteeism policy

Guidelines are put in place to help employees know what they should do in a given situation. An absenteeism policy will detail the circumstances under which an absence is warranted and how an employee should go about reporting and to whom.

It should also contain the disciplinary steps to be taken if one is chronically absent; from a conversation with a direct supervisor to a formal review if the behaviour escalates and to written warnings and, finally, suspension. Organisations should leave dismissal as a last resort.

For one thing, the organisation will feel the pinch that comes with firing employees that were already skilled and trained. They will incur a financial cost to recruit new hires, not to mention the time it takes to onboard and train them. An absenteeism policy will reinforce good behaviour and remind employees of what the organisation expects of them.

Be flexible

At the end of the day, your employees are human beings and will require you to be flexible. A policy that demands someone report to work and handover to another colleague doesn’t account for an overnight emergency that will prevent your employee from coming in the next day. In this case, a phone call to their supervisor can be an option.

Similarly, a policy that only allows for a set number of sick days might lead your employees to come in before they recover in order to avoid facing disciplinary action. Working while sick affects the individual’s productivity and can also lead to infecting others, driving group productivity down even further.

Flexibility also means being able to go off-book in certain situations. A keen manager might notice an employee who has been overloaded and is getting burnt out. Through the right channels, they can suggest that said employee takes some time off.

This will prevent the employee from taking matters into their own hands and simply not showing up to work. According to a survey by Career Builder, 20% of employees called in sick when they were actually well because they needed to relax.

Tips on managing employee absenteeism

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Keep communication lines open

The manager-employee relationship is an important one and one that can lead to high levels of absenteeism. However, if the relationship is good, marked by mutual respect and open communication, employees are likely to feel more comfortable.

There should also be clear, intentional communication from senior management. Employees should know about developments across the company, such as new product launches. They shouldn’t find out about crucial news in the press like everyone else.

This will leave employees feeling like they are just another cog in the system and that their contribution is negligible. It will be easier for them to make peace with absenting themselves.

Encourage staff to take their leave days

It seems self-evident that people will look forward to taking their days off. However, because of work pressures, among other reasons, leave or time off is missed.

This is not a way to increase working hours, it is a way to ensure an exhausted and later on disengaged workforce. Later on, tired employees will be more likely to be absent. It is easy to feel that if you worked longer than necessary, you should stay away from work when you feel like it.

Improve morale

When morale is low, even punitive policies might not be enough to compel a good attendance record amongst employees. Instead, management should do their part in increasing morale.

This can include any number of practices that make employees feel valued in the workplace, like their contributions matter and growing and advancing in their careers. When employees feel good about work, they will report less absent days.

In Summary

Employee attendance affects productivity and costs organisations money. This is why managers need to work to reduce it. The interventions can be broad policies that show all employees what they need to do.

But managers can also couple that with personal attention to expose the underlying issues. A combination approach can help in eliminating employee absenteeism.

Gerald Ainomugisha

Gerald Ainomugisha

Gerald is a freelance writer with a pen that is keen for entrepreneurship, business and technology. When he isn't writing insightful articles on employee engagement and corporate culture, Gerald can be found writing for a number of media outlets.