Absenteeism can be incredibly costly for a business, in both productivity and financial terms. In fact, absences due to illness alone cost UK businesses around £29 billion a year. Reducing absenteeism is therefore highly beneficial for the day-to-day and long-term health of your business. The key to reducing absenteeism in the workplace is to understand what causes it in the first place.
The Effects of Absenteeism
Most employees need time off occasionally, and there are multiple ways employers can make this happen. Whether it’s due to illness, parental leave, jury duty, or a family emergency, there are many legitimate reasons why someone might need time off.
Absenteeism is different. This term refers to an employee’s habitual, frequent absence. A habitually absent employee may have reasons for needing time off, but perpetual absenteeism can have serious consequences for an organisation, especially if there are a large number of offenders. Some possible consequences include:
- Reduced productivity. Not necessarily limited to the absent employee, as there may be downstream effects when an employee isn’t around to do their part in a team project, or perform their day-to-day duties in a small business.
- Higher cost of labour, if an employer is forced to hire temp workers to replace the absent staff member.
- Poor customer service.
- Reduced morale for other employees, especially those who have extra work to cover for an absent colleague.
What Causes Absenteeism, and How can You Fix It?
Absenteeism isn’t a problem with a quick and easy solution. Sometimes, it means making changes in the workplace, to mitigate issues that may be causing staff to take extra time off. Or, it may mean making changes that help support people’s needs in the workplace.
Set Clear Expectations with an Attendance Policy
Every organisation should have a clear attendance policy, and every employee should be familiar with that policy from their first day of work. Attendance policy should include details on how to request time off and report absences, and the consequences of repeated or excessive absenteeism. With a clear policy in place, everyone understands what’s expected of them when they need time off.
The attendance policy should also lay out what support employees receive when they take time off. For instance, if an employee needs parental leave or bereavement leave, how will they be supported during their leave, and upon their return to work? The return to work can be difficult after an employee takes extended leave, so providing support for that period can be an important way of helping them make the adjustment.
Create a Healthy Work Environment
Sometimes, specific problems at work directly contribute to an employee’s absenteeism. Issues such as workplace bullying, or management issues, make the workplace an uncomfortable or even hostile place to be.
This can be tricky problems to address, because changing employee behaviour may sometimes require changing company culture. When absenteeism is an isolated issue, each case can often be dealt with on an individual basis. If there are widespread issues in the workplace, however, that may be an indication that bigger changes are needed. For instance, an investigation may reveal management problems that are contributing to poor morale, or a workplace culture in which bullying has been overlooked. In such cases, rooting out those problems and solving them tend to reduce absenteeism.
Support Employee Health and Wellness
Illness, injury, stress, and mental health issues are some of the most common reasons why employees take time off. Stress is a particularly pressing problem, given that more than half of workplace absences are due to work-related stress, as well as mental illness. And given that mental illness can be triggered or exacerbated by stress, it’s clear that many employees need more support at work.
What can employers do about this? One possibility is to implement a wellness program or employee assistance program. Wellness programs are designed to help employees improve their mental and physical wellbeing. Employee assistance programs are geared more to helping employees with problems they might be facing, such as work issues, personal problems, financial, or family issues.
In both cases, the key is helping employees deal with issues before they become serious—whether it’s by helping people get healthy to reduce illness, or reducing stress and improving mental health. By dealing with these issues before they become serious, people need less time off to deal with illness and other problems.
Improve Workplace Morale
In an ideal situation, people are interested, engaged, and even excited by the work they do, and are happy to come to work each day. That’s not always possible—not everyone can do what they love—but even so, it’s possible to help employees find satisfaction in the work they do. When employees find their work engaging and fulfilling, absenteeism plummets.
Some ways to build morale include:
- Team-building exercises that help everyone work together more effectively.
- Friendly competitions or games such as office sweepstakes or pools.
- Provide employees with opportunities for training, promotion, or career advancement, rather than hiring top positions from outside the company.
- Improve the office environment. Even small improvements can go a long way—add plants, comfortable chairs in the break room, or a fancy coffee machine, make the workplace feel more comfortable, and employees feel more valued.
Overall, reducing absenteeism is all about helping employees feel more valued. When people feel like the work they do has meaning—and that their work is valued and appreciated—they’re more likely to enjoy it and find it fulfilling. And that translates directly into fewer work absences.
With ACUTEC Attendance, keep track of absenteeism and see what you can do it improve it for your organisation.