Some level of absenteeism in the workplace is inevitable. Employees experience injuries or illness and occasionally need time off to take care of family members and personal business. But how much is too much? When unscheduled absences from work become the norm, it can negatively impact office morale and the employer’s bottom line. Leading organizations are seeking new strategies to better track, control, and minimize excessive absences. Discover eight ways to effectively manage absenteeism and cultivate a productive, engaged workforce.
What is absenteeism
Absenteeism refers to frequent absences from work without a legitimate excuse and beyond the acceptable amount of time off. High rates of absenteeism can be caused by chronic health conditions, stress, workplace harassment issues, and low morale. In a recent survey, 40% of employees admitted to calling in sick when they weren’t and 28% who had a paid time off program “made up” an excuse for taking a day off. Whatever the cause, absenteeism in the workplace is often a symptom of a larger problem. Since productivity losses linked to absenteeism cost US employers more than $225 billion per year, many organizations are taking steps to monitor absences from work, understand the reason behind them, and determine if there are any serious, underlying reasons that can be addressed.
Eight ways to minimize absenteeism
The most successful firms are adopting new strategies to create a better work environment for employees and minimize absences from work. Here are eight best practices you can use to effectively handle absenteeism in the workplace:
1. Craft and distribute an official attendance policy.
Explain your company’s definition of tardiness and the differences between scheduled and unscheduled absences. Put your expectations in writing so employees know what is expected of them in terms of clocking in on a daily basis, calling or emailing to notify of unscheduled absences, and any rules about absences in general. Clearly explain what warrants disciplinary action and how your company will deal with each instance. Be aware of federal and state laws because an employee may be entitled to time off beyond what your policy allows.
2. Track employee absences.
To ensure employees follow the attendance policy, your organization must track time and attendance. Try using an automated system that includes a time clock app, facial recognition, or other biometric authentication to prevent buddy punching and time theft. Keep records of each absence so you can address issues and spot trends of excessive absences.
3. Conduct return-to-work interviews.
According to research in the UK, organizations conducting return-to-work interviews experience a significant reduction in unscheduled absences. A return-to-work interview is an opportunity for both manager and employee to confirm the record of the absence, ensure the reason is accurate, and discuss any concerns. Listen, be objective and supportive, and be prepared to make work flexibility or schedule adjustments to help the situation.
4. Enforce policies consistently and address issues immediately.
To avoid conflict and ensure fairness, your organization must consistently enforce attendance policies. Treat every employee consistently. Immediately and directly address each situation with the progressive disciplinary steps your organization included in your attendance policy.
5. Adopt a wellness program.
Prolonged stress can lead to unhealthy habits and longer-term issues like heart disease and obesity. Wellness initiatives can help minimize health-related absences and reduce stress. Be sure to encourage better work/life balance with time off for employees to recharge. Studies show that employees who take time off, come back feeling more engaged in work.
6. Create and maintain a better work environment.
Working long hours in a poor office environment can cause both physical and psychological stress. Do what you can to provide employees with ergonomic seating, clean air, and natural lighting. Show employees you value respect and teamwork to improve social and mental health.
7. Offer flexibility.
Sometimes a schedule change is all that’s needed to improve work attendance. Discuss telecommuting, job-sharing, or scheduling options that could help employees get through a difficult period or better handle child care or elder care issues.
8. Reward good behavior.
Try offering rewards like cash, gifts, or celebrations to encourage good employee attendance.
Get time and productivity back
To minimize absenteeism, understand and address the causes. Set employee expectations about workplace absences with a clear attendance policy. Take steps now to create a healthy work environment that supports employees. Asure Software’s HR as a Service keeps track of all your workforce administration needs including time and attendance so you can focus on maximizing talent and meeting core business objectives.