Workplace absenteeism

How To Reduce Workplace Absenteeism

In our previous posts, we talked about how to create an employee attendance policy, as well as the costs of chronic absenteeism and some of the core reasons this problem occurs in the workplace. So what about how to address it? How can employers cut down on the loss of money and productivity stemming from absenteeism?

Use An Employee Attendance Management System

There are a few different reasons using a leave management or attendance management system is beneficial regarding absenteeism. First, a lot of times employers don’t realize absenteeism is a problem until it’s too late.

For example, an employee in one department may be consistently missing days, and yet it slides under the radar. As a result, not only is that employee costing the company money, but it can set the tone for other employees. If one employee is getting away with it, why can’t others? The result can be a damaging ripple effect in terms of culture that can spread through the organization.

With an attendance management system, it’s a much more defined, streamlined way to keep up with who’s missing work and why. This allows managers and business owners to easily recognize troubling patterns.

There’s another reason to utilize a leave tracker. When you have a policy in place for attendance and how employees ask off, a leave management system ensures employees are going to follow it. It’s a much more organized way to keep up with who’s doing what, and who’s requesting what.

Finally, some of the major costs related to absenteeism are the result of the administrative work that goes into managing unexcused absences. A leave tracker can cut down on that, at least to an extent.

Discover the Source of Absenteeism

If you start using an attendance management system or a leave management system and you uncover patterns or trends that shouldn’t be happening, it’s so important to discover the source of absenteeism. There are many different reasons people might miss work, some of which were discussed in our previous post.

Having an understanding of why absenteeism is happening is a really important thing to do before you can specifically address it with any strategic remedies. For example, if the issue is stemming from one employee, the steps used to change the problem are going to be radically different than if it’s a problem stemming from a toxic workplace culture.

Specific Programs That Can Help With Absenteeism

Many employers have discovered chronic health conditions are one of the biggest reasons for widespread absenteeism. While you can’t cure someone’s chronic health issues, what you can do is make sure that you’re developing health and wellness programs that are in-line with employee needs.

While a small business might not have the massive resources of a corporation, there are still things they can do to promote wellness. Some examples of wellness programs that can be implemented even on a small budget include:

  • Having an instructor come in weekly and host exercise classes—examples can include yoga or boot camp.
  • Hold events so that employees can enjoy fun, friendly competition against one another with goals like lowering cholesterol or losing weight.
  • Even little things like encouraging employees to get every hour and stretch and walk, or having healthy snacks in the break room can show employees that you do care about their wellness and you’re willing to go the extra mile to help them feel their best.

Another option to help when employees are sick or have a chronic illness is to offer flexible work options. This means that employees are expected to have some level of productivity, but they can do so from home. This tends to be a good balance for a lot of employees, and they feel like they have some flexibility and are empowered if they aren’t feeling well, while employers are still getting some work time. If this is something a business is considering, they should be clear about scenarios when people could work remotely versus when they shouldn’t.

For example, if someone is extremely ill, they aren’t a good candidate to work from home. However, if they’re only a little sick, or even if they have a childcare emergency, they might be able to work from home.

It’s also important to first, ensure that the company has a very solid, defined absence policy in place. This policy should do the following:

  • The policy needs to be completely clear on all guidelines. There shouldn’t be room for misinterpretation.
  • Employees should also be provided with a detailed discipline plan that shows them what steps will be taken if absenteeism becomes a problem.
  • Human resources and key management employees need to be trained on the absentee policy. According to the SHRM, it takes an average of 3.4 hours a week to manage absence. Supervisors often shoulder a lot of this burden, so training them in these areas and ensuring they can take on the responsibility of enforcing an attendance policy is important.

Paid time off or PTO banks are starting to be more widely used. This is an option that provides employees with what’s described as a “bank” of paid leave time. They can use it however they want, as opposed to traditional programs that break time off into separate categories for illness, vacation and personal time.

Research shows that PTO banks are rated among the most effective programs to reduce absences.

Another option to improve absenteeism numbers is to go the route of incentives. A lot of employers go first with discipline, but sometimes incentivizing employees to come to work can be a more positive experience. Of course, this isn’t going to work for every organization, and there are things to consider before implementing this idea.

First, this works best for companies that really need employees to be present and can be significantly sidelined by absenteeism. For example, if employees deliver a key service to customers, incentivizing them to have a positive attendance record can be helpful. It is also important not to incentivize employees to the point that they come to work even when they are sick and risk getting others sick. When there is an incentivization program in place, employees should still have adequate sick days.

Incentivizing employees also doesn’t just have to mean a financial balance. It could even be as simple as recognizing employees.

A broader strategy that may be required, and is going to take more work on the part of employees is improving culture and morale.

Finally, one of the biggest reasons employees have high levels of absenteeism is because they work in a place that they find stressful, overwhelming, negative or toxic. It’s so important to make sure that while employees are held to a high standard, they’re not treated poorly by their managers, supervisors or coworkers. It’s best to try and create a positive culture where people feel encouraged to come to work because they’re engaged in their job, rather than because they fear discipline.

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