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I had a question from a reader who asked, “Do you see the causes of workplace absenteeism as a management problem or a personal problem?”
Second, “what do you think is the most effective way of reducing employee absenteeism in the workplace?”
Let’s first define absenteeism.
Workplace absenteeism refers to the time taken off work due to illness or other reasons, such as childcare or transportation issues. Studying patterns of workplace absences can be useful for public health. CDC
What Is the Average Absentee Rate
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the absence rate for all full-time wage and salary workers is 3.2%. This means that, on average, 3.2% of the workforce is absent from work on regular workdays.
Why Do Employees Not Show Up For Work?
Excessive absenteeism can be caused by any number of things – personal problems, employee performance issues, lack of clear expectations, or a dysfunctional work environment.
So to answer the first question – “do you see the causes of workplace absenteeism as a management problem or a personal problem” – my answer would be that I think it could be both.
Ongoing personal problems can affect employee attendance, which is why many organizations offer programs to support employees.
Employee Assistance Program
These kinds of programs are often called Employee Assistance Programs or EAP and offer services that help employees through personal, family, financial, or work-related issues affecting attendance and employee performance.
For instance, an employee who is getting bombarded by calls from collection agencies would benefit from personal finance assistance.
Management Issues Can Also Cause Absenteeism
However, not all excessive absenteeism is caused by personal problems.
Sometimes, it can be related to poor management practices or a manager’s inability to create a healthy and productive work environment.
Management issues can be things like:
Poor management communication practices. For instance, a manager may sit in their office all day and never interact with employees.
Not setting attendance expectations. Employees don’t understand that showing up for work is important.
Managers do not hold employees accountable for attendance. Managers turn a blind eye to employees who regularly don’t show up for work.
Not managing overall employee performance; Employees go to work with the intention of doing a good job. It is the manager’s responsibility to communicate how well an employee is performing.
Issues with how supervisors interact or manage employees. Managers need to be able to relate to employees and develop a relationship for positive interactions. Managers who lack those relational skills often have problems with employees.
Employees Leave Because Of Their Supervisor
Much research has supported the fact that employees leave organizations because of their supervisors.
This is why it is important for anyone managing employees to have the proper supervisor training and support to ensure they are dealing with employees appropriately and professionally.
How To Reduce Absenteeism in The Workplace?
To answer the second question, “what do you think is the most effective way of reducing absenteeism in the workplace?”
An organization should do a few things: Write policy, set expectations, hold employees accountable, reward good attendance, and provide employee support.
Each action helps to create a foundation that supports employees by providing them with understandable expectations for their time at work.
5 Ways to Reduce Absenteeism in the Workplace
1. Write An Attendance Policy
Formalize the organization’s expectations for attendance by writing an attendance policy. Include in the policy the definition of being tardy and what constitutes excessive tardiness or absenteeism.
For example, tardiness is defined as an employee who arrives at work 30 minutes late.
Excessive absenteeism is defined as an employee who has six or more unplanned absences in a six-month period.
This policy then becomes a measure of good performance because employees understand how the organization defines attendance.
2. Set Clear Attendance Expectations
Share the attendance policy during the employee orientation process and discuss your expectations for attendance.
Also, discuss how to notify the organization and whom the employee should contact when they are not coming to work.
Employees should understand how often it is acceptable to have an unplanned absence.
Specifically, how often missing work crosses the performance line and what the consequences will be for excessive absenteeism.
For example, the employee performance appraisal form should have a dimension for attendance based on the predetermined policy.
4. Hold Employees Accountable
There is nothing more frustrating to a hard-working employee than to see a co-worker missing work.
Managers are responsible for ensuring that employees show up as scheduled to cover all shifts.
Employees who miss work excessively should be held accountable and managed with a progressive discipline approach to the correction of behaviors.
4. Reward Good Attendance
Managers should recognize employees who show up every day.
Some organizations reward good attendance by giving employees a bonus for having no unplanned absences in a 12-month period.
For instance, I worked for an organization that gave employees without unplanned absences for a year a $500 bonus. This carrot was enough to get employees to recognize the value of showing up for work.
In addition, when attendance is incorporated into the annual performance appraisal process, employees can also see rewards through merit increases.
Another tactic is to provide adequate paid time off so employees can plan absences using a predetermined bank of hours.
For instance, a PTO bank of hours allows employees to take personal time to take a child or loved one to doctor’s appointments that may not be covered under a traditional sick and vacation time allotment.
5. Provide Employee Support
Sometimes employees are simply experiencing a challenging time in life.
This is when providing support through EAP programs can help them deal with personal issues that might be affecting their attendance.
For instance, if an employee struggles with marital issues, the program may offer free marriage counseling to help the employee deal with that difficult situation.
This kind of support can help employees through a difficult time and make them feel valued and that their employer cares about them—a major determining factor of employee engagement.
For an organization to be successful, it needs a committed and engaged workforce.
One way to foster commitment and engagement is clear expectations, empathetic employee support, and a structured process to reward good performance and simply showing up for work.
Do you track employee absenteeism?