HR Insights
Quick Read
July 15, 2019

Three ways to address employee absenteeism in the workplace

There are many potential reasons employees may be absent from work – from personal circumstances to disengagement. Here are some tools and strategies for managers to better understand and address employee absence.

Table of Contents

Absence management is a very crucial factor related to workforce productivity. According to a survey done by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, the total annual cost related to lost productivity is approximately $84 billion in the U.S.

While absences can be a result of an illness, a family emergency, or another personal issue, too many missed days might hint at employee disengagement. Regardless of the cause and length of absences, managers need to be prepared to deal with them in the most productive way possible.

This means HR leaders should equip themselves with the right tools and strategies to offset the negative impact of employee absenteeism.

Here are three ways to address absenteeism in the workplace.

1. Clearly establish an absence management policy

An absence management policy works to reduce employee absences through company-wide expectations. The policy should outline what an acceptable absence is and what can be classified as paid time off. A clearly defined absence management policy empowers managers to address employee attendance issues proactively and ensures consistency across the organization.

During the employee onboarding process, it’s essential to outline protocols and procedures for missed work. This will leave no room for confusion, and ensures employees are taking the rules seriously. For instance, it’s a good practice for employees to communicate directly with their manager when taking a previously unapproved day off from work (whether it’s a sick or personal day).

An absence management policy can be strengthened by making it accessible to employees through an online portal in addition to continued reinforcement throughout other processes. For example, many leading companies use workforce management technology to streamline absence tracking. This helps make an employee’s request – and a manager’s approval – for time off manageable in just a few clicks.

2. Track employee absences to understand patterns

It’s challenging for managers to spot and understand issues if they’re not able to track them. Technology allows for real-time tracking of absence patterns – such as an employee constantly missing their Monday shift. The benefit of tracking in real-time is that it allows managers to respond more immediately to any issues.

The insights from real-time data also allow for informed and productive conversations with employees that will help address and improve their performance and even the overall culture of the company.

After all, according to McKinsey, workplace stress costs U.S. employers nearly $200 billion every year. If stress is a big driver for employee absenteeism, picking up on the pattern might be the first step to rectifying the problem and saving the company from big losses.

Related: Does your workplace wellness program need a makeover?

3. Address the subject with open communication

In the above scenario, using technology for data insights is crucial, but so is the accompanying dialogue and transparency that should follow. Factors leading to an employee missing work could involve picking up kids, caring for an elderly loved one, or a medical issue. Finding out this information can help accommodate an employee’s needs and strengthen their relationship with a manager. From a manager’s perspective, they can more efficiently plan and schedule with knowledge of their employee’s true availability and help manage leave requirements accordingly.

However, some absence patterns could be caused by an employee’s disengagement, perhaps due to low team morale, burnout, poor compensation, etc. Understanding these circumstances could help identify employees that could be a potential flight risk so managers can make more informed decisions when addressing these issues.

Learn more about using technology to address key factors that impact employee retention: Download our guide

How technology can help reduce employee absenteeism

Absence management data can help managers identify employees who use all their sick leave, vacation days, and personal time excessively. While it’s not a violation of company policy, using available time off so aggressively might be a key indicator of an employee’s dissatisfaction. Some absence management technologies give managers the option to track absences using a point system. As points accumulate for an employee that is overabundantly absent, managers are guided to take the action necessary to address the issue.

Employee absenteeism can seriously drain the productivity of a workforce and can be an indicator of a larger issue. Open communication with employees about missing work is one of the keys to preventing it from becoming a problem. Managers can address these issues, supported by technology and actionable data needed, to ensure those discussions contribute positively to the future of the company.

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