What links grabbing a sandwich, fortune tellers, and large spiders? They’re all (admittedly ridiculous) reasons why employees haven’t shown up for work. Although most of us haven’t had employees warned against coming into work by psychic intuition, you’ve likely heard your fair share of excuses. Some are more legitimate than others, which can make it a challenge to weed out absenteeism in your company.
Absenteeism isn’t a new thing. In fact, it’s a growing challenge for employers to face, taking on new appearances throughout the various lockdowns and restrictions on offices over the past year.
The more it goes on in your company, the greater the cost, both in terms of money and business productivity. So, how do you prevent it from settling into your company’s work ethic? We have some tricks up our sleeve to help you encourage and foster good workplace attendance.
What is Absenteeism?
It’s important to note the distinction between unexplained absences and absenteeism. Everyone is going to have the occasional day where they wake up, feel awful, and have to call in sick to work. Or find themselves facing unforeseen circumstances that mean they have to be absent for a day or two.
This isn’t absenteeism. Absenteeism is a habit of regularly missing days for no apparent reason. What differentiates it from other absences is its common occurrence and the lack of reason behind it. It’s not a one-off scenario but happens over and over again.
It’s often done without notifying managers or anyone else. This can put your employees on the backfoot, especially where the individual’s actions prevent greater productivity for the rest of the team.
There’s a myriad of reasons why an employee may become an absentee, from lack of enjoyment or purpose in their work role to minor illnesses or a company culture that hinders productivity.
If you want to get to the bottom of this absentee problem, tackling these issues is the only way to act preventatively. Nonetheless, in dealing with the immediate problem of absenteeism, there are some methods to help minimize and discourage it in practice.
Absenteeism is a many-headed beast, so it takes several approaches to deal with it. The nuances of how it presents in your workforce may lend themselves to different methods of combating it or require some serious evaluation of the reasons behind it.
We’ll go into a few of the best proactive measures you can take to manage the problem and explain why they’re important.
Have a Clear Policy
The first thing to ensure is that your company has an absenteeism policy and your employees are aware of it. If there’s no policy in place, it can be difficult to talk to employees about why they shouldn’t be doing it.
Just as you have a policy for your product returns management or for hybrid working or various productivity policies and strategies, make sure you have one for absenteeism.
Likewise, if you have a policy but no one’s ever read it, no one’s going to follow it. Having this as an easily accessible document helps everyone know where they stand.
There are plenty of templates available to base your policy on, but essentially it should cover what’s acceptable and unacceptable, how to notify the team, what disciplinary actions are in place, and how much notice is required for planned absences.
Share Schedules Well in Advance
If your company works on a rota, as is common in retail and hospitality, ensure employees have access to it well in advance of their shifts. This gives them the chance to plan around work and make sure it’s prioritized, as well as having the opportunity to reschedule and swap shifts if they’re aware of future absences.
This can be included as part of automation in retail industry to ensure schedules are automatically calculated and sent out.
Similarly, for non-rota-based work, make weekly schedules known. If there’s an essential meeting coming up, inform your team well in advance. If there are certain days employees are needed in the office, tell them.
This helps with planning, individual productivity, and makes employees more likely to officially book holidays and time off rather than disappearing from the face of the earth when you need them.
Find a way to keep note of who your main absentees are and how regularly it’s happening. If it’s only a couple of individuals who are repeat offenders, you’re going to want to take a very different approach to dealing with an entire team.
This can be tricky information to collect, but attendance tracking software can make it a lot easier, so you’re even able to monitor staff productivity.
Having the numbers and evidence to hand can be useful in a one-to-one or in explaining why disciplinary actions have been taken. Having this to back up your decisions not only gives you clarity and confidence in the choices you make but makes it clear to employees that absenteeism is picked up on.
Address it Quickly
Dealing with absentees shouldn’t be something you put off until they reach 50 unexplained absences. Right from the first instance, it’s time to have a conversation and nip it in the bud. This gives you and your employees a chance to tackle it together, as well as setting an example of how your policy is put into action and keeping workplace productivity on track.
One-on-ones can be valuable in opening up communication with employees, clarifying and going over any unclear policy, and working out how to prevent the issue from going further. This might include reminding the employee how to take sick leave, discussing the impact of their actions on the rest of the team, and creating a plan for how to avoid burnout.
At the other end of the spectrum, make it worth your employees’ while to maintain good attendance. This could be via reward schemes, events, or even bonuses. This adds value to work and attendance by recognizing and celebrating it. Employees who feel their work has a purpose are less likely to be absentees and are more likely to be loyal to your company.
This helps to build a workplace culture of attendance, making absenteeism a rare occurrence. If employees can notice and hold one another accountable, the jobs of managers and employers become a whole lot easier, and this aids productivity management.
It can also foster a genuine interest in one another’s lives, again helping to build better communication and potentially giving you a heads up in situations where employees may need time off work in the future.
Look Into The Causes
If your workforce is consistently absent across the company, it might be you that’s the issue. There are plenty of times where unexpected illness, family issues, or another outside cause is to blame.
However, on occasion, absenteeism comes from a bad work environment that makes employees reluctant to come in every day and impacts company productivity. It might be difficult to admit, but this often has far-reaching consequences and must be addressed quickly.
This could be due to structural issues, such as minimum wage, lack of paid holiday leave, or limited employee benefits. Alternatively, it could be to do with the atmosphere of the office being unwelcoming and creating an overly stressful workplace.
By identifying these causes, you can act on them and build a better place to work. If your employees enjoy coming in each day, they’re far less likely to try and avoid it.
Say Goodbye to Absenteeism and Maximize Productivity
Getting rid of absenteeism in your workforce is a huge task, but committing to addressing it can make an enormous difference. By having a sturdy policy in place, your company can deal with unexpected absences without it turning into an epidemic of absentees.
Building strong relationships within your teams to allow clear communication also does much to anticipate and support employees in taking appropriate time off.
Ignoring absenteeism only allows it to snowball. If employees start seeing they can get away with it, they become more likely to risk it. It’s also not going to help with how to attract more customers to your business.
Low Absenteeism is Good News for Customers, Too
If customers are regularly kept waiting by absent employees or experience slow service, they will look elsewhere. Having present and engaged employees can be the difference between business success and failure.
Alongside the effect on customers, having good attendance among employees leads to greater productivity, boosts morale, and can even be more profitable. If you want your company to flourish and succeed, it’s high time you showed absenteeism the door. The benefits are worth the hassle of reevaluating policy, having conversations, and finding the source of the issue.
It’s not always easy, but once you’ve set the systems in place to manage it, they will serve you well in the future.