Reducing Absenteeism in the Workplace

May 7, 2018
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Absenteeism is the term given when an employee is habitually and frequently absent from work. This excludes paid leave and occasions where an employer has granted an employee time off.

If you’re a manager, supervisor, or team leader, you’ll have likely experienced cases of absenteeism. You should know that staff will be absent from time to time, such as for illness, jury duty, or bereavement. However, when absenteeism is frequent and excessive it begins to become a problem.

This article offers a detailed understanding of absenteeism in the workplace. It explains what causes employee absenteeism and looks at ways to reduce it in your workplace.


The Effects of Absenteeism

Absenteeism in the workplace affects both employers and employees alike.

Some consequences for employers include:

  • Reduced productivity levels.
  • High administration costs.
  • Increased labour costs if you hire replacement temporary workers.
  • Understaffing which could lead to poor customer service.
  • Poor morale among colleagues. This will be particularly prevalent if employees constantly have to fill in for absent staff and if they don’t see any retributions for absence.

workplace stress

On the other hand, the consequences for the absent member of staff include:

  • Loss of pay for their time off.
  • Reduced productivity on their return to work due to a need to ‘catch up’.
  • If absenteeism is frequent and unexplained, the member of staff could even face dismissal.

Clearly, absenteeism is costly for all of the workforce, and it’s important you know the causes, and strategies to reduce it, for the benefit of everyone.


What Causes Employee Absenteeism?

You need to understand what causes absenteeism so that you can work to reduce it. Some common reasons for absenteeism are:

  • Bullying and harassment – If an employee is being bullied or harassed by someone at work, they may stay at home so they can avoid the unpleasant situation.
  • Stress and burnout – An employee may be stressed because of work or due to personal reasons. Whatever the reason, they may believe that being at work will only add to their stress. Furthermore, if an employee feels burnt out, they’ll feel disengaged from their work.
  • Care – If your employee is a carer, such as for an elderly relative, they may take time out of work if the dependent is ill, has appointments, or if their care arrangements fall through. This may also be the case if an employee has a dependent child.
  • Mental health problems – This is of course a problem in its own right, and you must strive to make your workplace an environment in which mental health issues are discussed and supported.
  • Low morale – An employee may have low morale and lack motivation if they feel undervalued and underappreciated at work. If they feel that their work isn’t appreciated, they may feel like nobody would notice if they were absent.
  • Bereavement – Dealing with bereavement isn’t easy, and work will be the last thing on the mind of the affected. Absence from work may be particularly longer if the death was sudden. The employee will need to grieve and may have a lot of legal matters to sort out.
  • Illness – This is the most common cause of absenteeism. It can spike at certain times, especially in winter when viruses, such as cold and flu, are widespread.

effects of absenteeism in the workplace


Tips to Reduce Absenteeism in the Workplace

After understanding the causes for absenteeism, you should then work to reduce it. Some actionable tips for this are:

Create a clear attendance policy and set expectations

Your attendance policy should explain how to report absences, the procedures in place surrounding absences, and your policy for recording absences. It should also contain information about how you will follow up on repeated absences and the repercussions for excessive absenteeism.

You should discuss the policy with all members of staff and ask them to sign it to show their understanding.

The policy will act as a resource to your employees about your expectations. Aim to be consistent and follow the attendance policy in all possible situations.

Provide support

If an employee is absent due to personal issues, like bereavement or mental health problems, you should provide support both when they are absent and on their return to work. Support will likely make them feel happier to return to work earlier and prevent repeated absenteeism.

You could also consider offering your employees time off in lieu and/or flexible working time. This will ensure people feel like they get a good work-life balance and that you value their needs.

Reduce workplace stress

You should always try to rectify factors at work that may cause stress for your employees. For example, if a piece of equipment is broken and employees are stressing, you should aim to fix it as soon as possible.

You should also implement programmes that encourage employee health and wellbeing. This should have your employees’ physical and mental health at the forefront and will prove to your workforce that you value both their work and their health.

happy colleagues

Provide feedback

You should provide your employees with frequent and  effective feedback, especially when they’ve done something well. If you never provide feedback, your workforce may feel that you don’t appreciate their hard efforts and you therefore won’t notice when they’re not at work.

Reward good attendance

You need to plan this one carefully, as there may be genuine reasons why somebody is absent, such as long-term sickness. However, you should aim to provide a reward for employees who display good attendance throughout the year. This will encourage all to attend and show employees who are always at work that you value them.


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