Learning from Employee Absenteeism

When employees chronically miss work without notice, or when absenteeism suddenly spikes in part of your workforce, it can lead to a series of kneejerk reactions, questions, and concerns.

  • Is there something else going on?
  • Are employees disengaged?
  • What’s really happening here?

And while some people might make assumptions about what employee absenteeism is saying, the data, including information from your time & attendance software, might tell a different story.

What is Employee Absenteeism Saying?

No matter why employees are absent, one thing is for certain: absenteeism costs organizations in a number of ways. For starters, US Department of Labor stats suggest that nearly 3% of the workforce is absent every day. While that number might not seem high, chronic absenteeism can send ripples across your organization.

  • Unexcused absences or chronic tardiness can affect employee morale, force employees to pick up the slack, and cause you to pay overtime when other team members make up for missed work.
  • Coupled with things like buddy punching and other types of time theft, chronic absenteeism can be a symptom of a disengaged workforce.

Still, employee absenteeism isn’t always about your workers being disengaged. Plenty of workers miss work because they’re dealing with personal issues, are sick or injured, or are tending to family emergencies.

As you focus on minimizing absenteeism, it can be helpful to get to the underlying causes. We’ll review a few tips to consider below.

Like tardiness and buddy punching, chronic absenteeism can be a sign of low employee engagement, and could lead to various forms of time clock fraud. Are you concerned with time theft? Take our interactive Time Theft Test, and quiz your knowledge of how time theft affects the modern workplace.

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Employee absenteeism can affect your organization on multiple levels, and managing it is often HR’s job. There are sick-leave policies to draft and administer, managers to consult with when there’s an issue, metrics to review, and much more.

Before you begin planning and designing new workplace policies to curtail absenteeism, it may be helpful to identify the underlying cause. Here are a few tips to consider as you delve into the data:

  1. Find out the nature and true extent of absenteeism in your workplace.

Before you can control absenteeism, you want to gain an accurate view into the situation itself, and not work off of assumptions.

  • For instance, if there’s been a sudden increase in absenteeism, you might think there’s a deeper organizational issue at play.
  • However, what if it’s cold and flu season? Could it be that there’s a bug in the workplace that’s causing people to miss work all of a sudden?

Empty Desk

Employee Absenteeism and HR

  1. See if absenteeism differs among departments and workgroups.

Absenteeism can be difficult to deal with, no matter where it’s happening in your organization. With that said, where is it happening?

  • Is absenteeism an issue in one particular department more than others? What about among workers on certain shifts? Could there be environmental or stress factors at play?
  • Is there a pattern to absences? If so, how would you define it? Is it seasonal? Monthly?
  • Are people missing multiple days at a time? Or, do they tend to miss one or two days a month? When you examine absences by durations and frequency, it can help you determine if something else is going on behind the scenes.
  1. As you gather more information regarding the why and where absenteeism is happening, remember the relationship between direct and indirect costs.

When absenteeism is a chronic issue, it can affect budgets, workflow, and your retention strategy. While direct costs may be the ones that get a leader’s immediate attention, indirect costs might have a more lasting effect.

  • Low morale can also amplify retention issues, drive up your recruitment costs, and create holes in your organization’s culture.
  • Meanwhile, unscheduled absences can get in the way of a department’s workflow, or prevent work from happening at all. Other workers may need to jump in to pick up the slack. Not only can this affect morale, but it can cause the organization to have to pay overtime.

Don’t ignore employee absenteeism.

If and when employee absenteeism is a symptom of a larger organizational issue, it’s not going to take care of itself. Once you begin managing absenteeism, make sure you continue to track your efforts. What’s working? What do you need to refine? What other changes can support your efforts?

  • Make sure policies and practices encourage employees to act in the best interest of the organization, while also keeping their work-life balance in mind.
  • If an employee is dealing with an illness, it’s probably better for everyone if they take care of themselves, and not get other people sick by coming to work.

Data from your time & attendance software can help you get to the bottom of it so you can determine the best next steps.

Are you considering changes to your time & attendance policies or solutions? Give stratustime a call, and find out how we can put our time & attendance software to work for you.

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