Absenteeism Definition: What is Absenteeism?
Absenteeism is what happens when an employee begins to chronically miss work. Absenteeism is expensive to employers, bosses and co-workers and can cost repeat offenders their job. But while absenteeism is often perceived as an employee issue, newer research reveals it can also be a symptom of a much larger employer-based issue.
In this post, learn more about absenteeism, including the many reasons why it happens and what can be done to remedy the situation.
1. Why Absenteeism Occurs
Contrary to old school beliefs, absenteeism typically does not occur because the employer has hired poorly. While there is the occasional lazy or unprincipled employee in any workforce, for the most part, the lure of pay and benefits will keep employees showing up to work regularly.
Rather, it is in that place where even pay cannot compensate for work conditions that absenteeism is often discovered.
Here are some of the most common reasons why employees begin to be chronically absent from work:
– Harassment. If an employee is being singled out by co-workers or a supervisor in a way that is perceived as bullying or harassing, that employee is more likely to engage in absenteeism.
– Chronic illness. Issues as diverse as allergies and cancer can take a toll on an employee’s energy level and ability to perform well at work. But by far the most common health reasons for absenteeism center on ergonomic issues such as hand, back and neck pain (to the tune of 100 million work days annually).
– Lack of motivation. An employee stuck in a boring job – or even an interesting job that is overly challenging – can easily slide into dis-engagement and then into absenteeism.
– Stress. High stress in the workplace is a major cause of absenteeism (not surprisingly, stress and chronic health issues are now known to be linked). Stress can take the form of burnout, lack of motivation and other work-averse conditions.
– Family issues. This can be an especially prominent cause of absenteeism in households where both parents work. If the parents are shift-workers, the possibility of absenteeism rises still further as caregivers struggle to supervise children or elders living under their roof.
– Job interviews. While less of a long-term cause of absenteeism, employees that begin to become chronically absent or late due to job interviews disguised as “traffic jams” or “illness” are often soon gone for good as well.
– Depression. Depression is still the reigning cause of absenteeism in the American workforce today. Yale researchers report that depression (whether work-related or not) makes an employee twice as likely to miss work.
2. Other More Subtle Forms of Absenteeism
Just because an employee does show up for work doesn’t mean absenteeism isn’t still taking place on a subtler level.
Here are some examples of how an employee can begin to settle into absenteeism in a less detectable manner:
– Breaks. Taking long and frequent breaks that slowly get longer and more frequent amounts to a form of absenteeism.
– Lateness. Chronically arriving to work late and leaving early is another milder but (often) no less intentional form of absenteeism.
– Lower productivity. An employee that begins to produce less and less for the same hours worked is giving off warning signs of early absenteeism tendencies.
3. The Costs of Absenteeism
It is important to understand what absenteeism costs you in real terms. Missed work days can affect a company in a number of ways. For example:
- Lost work and wages. An article in Forbes estimated that employee absenteeism costs U.S. employers $3,600 annually for each hourly employee and $2,650 annually for salaried employees. The money comes from wages paid for no work, as well as additional wages for temporary employees or overtime.
- There are administrative costs associated with managing employee absenteeism, and over the course of a year, they can add up.
- Lost productivity. When employees are disgruntled and missing work, your overall productivity can take a hit. If left unaddressed, reduced productivity can cut into your profits.
- Quality control. When employees miss work and others have to pick up the slack, it is inevitable that the people who are putting in extra work will end up making mistakes.
- Safety issues. If you have to bring in temp workers or ask others to fill in for an absent employee, their lack of training and experience can lead to an increase in workplace accidents and injuries. That can cost you additional lost work as well as impact things like workers’ compensation policies.
- Employee morale. One slacking employee can bring down a whole department – or a whole company. When employees feel that one person is getting away with excessive absenteeism, it can have a negative impact on everything else in the workplace.
The bottom line is that absenteeism is more than just a minor irritation. It’s something that, if left unchecked, can hurt your company in many ways.
It might be surprising to learn that absenteeism among hourly workers is actually more costly to the average employer than the same among salaried workers.
The Workforce Institute reports:
– Hourly workers. Costs an estimated $3,600 per worker per employer per year.
– Salaried workers. Costs an estimated $2,650 per worker per employer per year.
With unscheduled absenteeism reaching levels where 1 in every 10 employees is absent on any given day, the costs to employers can reach anywhere from 3.2 to 7.5 percent of payroll annually.
As well, the toll on employees who are present can be significant. Their burden is increased when co-workers are chronically absent, which causes stress rates to rise and, with that, the risk of additional absenteeism.
4. How to Reduce Absenteeism
Truant workers pose a significant economic burden for companies, because they completely compromise overall productivity. Unfortunately, substantiating claims of employee absenteeism can be excessively burdensome for a business, which hinders their capacity to properly discipline laborers that are not present for duty. Luckily, this dilemma can be resolved by the absence tracking software offered by Mitrefinch.
When an employee does not arrive at their job, they attempt to be discrete about the time they missed to conceal their irresponsibility; however, tracking software records the actual time, which can be used as evidence for repercussions. Time and attendance software can ensure complete reliability among employees, and it is guaranteed to increase worker accountability.
Tracking software allows a company to precisely monitor the activities of their employees. This promotes an accurate measurement of productivity within a business. An automatically generate record of absences will dramatically reduce the tedious paperwork involved in handling employee truancies. The objective nature of Advance Systems tracking software cannot be viably contested by employees that are reprimanded for excessively missing work days. By using absenteeism detection programming, weak links can be effectively targeted for immediate repairs.
The mere presence of Mitrefinch software will instill an increased sense of obligation for workers, because they that their output is being directly measured. Computer programs cannot be manipulated like other methods workers use to check in for their shift. Because it can not be easily deceived, workers will strive to be more diligent in scheduling their arrivals before their paid time period begins.
Installing absence tracking software is a perfect way for a company to demonstrate seriousness in cracking down on repetitious truancies. Mitrefinch has fostered the most streamlined methods for tracking employee activity without being unnecessarily invasive. Sometimes, workers need to glimpse the breadth of true authority to be convinced into modifying their business regimens. Tracking software maximizes office output, because there is not a single minute that can be wasted without being noticed by the interface. This allows bosses to actively witness the various occupational habits of their workers, which ultimately lets them pick the best employee for every task.
Part of the reason absenteeism is now being called “the bottom line killer” in management circles is because, to date, it is still surprisingly difficult to track and quantify.
Part of the reason it is so difficult to track absenteeism even with today’s sophisticated workforce software tools is because it can be hard to decide what is true absenteeism and what is not.
One way to determine which is which is to begin implementing new techniques to cut down on absenteeism and see which employees are most responsive.
Here are some ideas employers are beginning to use with some success in reducing (if not curing) absenteeism among their staff:
– Providing incentives. Providing incentives to show up at work is one newly popular way employers are trying to reduce absenteeism. Incentives may be as varied as extra vacation days, free gift cards, preferred parking spaces and more.
– Providing mandatory paid sick leave days. Offering paid sick leave is a good way to tell which employees are really sick when they are absent. It can also reduce genuine absences when a sick co-worker comes to work and contagious germs are passed around the office.
– Workplace wellness programs. There is some research that shows employers who assist employees with maintaining better health and fitness can also cut absenteeism in their workforce. Not only can wellness education teach employees how to stay healthier, but it can also communicate that an employer values their staff enough to invest in their wellbeing.
– Vacation-friendly corporate culture. In today’s often uncertain economic times, employees can feel reluctant to take a vacation and still feel sure their job will be there on the other side. But this can lead to absenteeism when workers burn out on the job. Encouraging employees to take their vacation days can lower absenteeism rates and also make employees feel more valued.
– Track attendance. While this can backfire if used in an overly punitive way, it can also help employers with earlier identification of potential chronically late or absent workers. This provides a chance to fix the issue(s) causing the absenteeism before it becomes even more costly.
How to Curb Absenteeism
Here are some of the things you can do:
- Have a clear, written policy about time off and make sure all employees sign something to indicate that they understand it. In this litigious age, it is not enough to express your policy verbally or to send out an email. You need to document that each employee has read and understood the policy so you can take disciplinary action down the line if you need to.
- Consider having a set number of sick days for non-exempt employees. Some employers worry that allowing a fixed number of sick days will only ensure that employees will use them, but there are ways around that. For example, you might offer an incentive of some kind to employees who do not call in sick. It is important, though, to consider the costs associated with encouraging people to come in when they are One employee with the flu can end up infecting an entire department or company, so keep that in mind.
- Nip abuse in the bud by sitting down with employees who appear to be calling in sick on a regular basis. It’s essential to understand what’s happening when you notice that an employee is using a lot of sick time. It’s possible they have a chronic health problem or family issue, and it is better for you to know that – and work with them to manage their time off – than to continue on in ignorance and hope that things change.
- Whatever policy you put in place, be sure to enforce it equally for all employees. Remember, the goal is to avoid malaise and discontentment. If one employee gets away with excessive absenteeism it can affect everybody’s morale.
- Be cautious docking pay for exempt (salaried) employees. You may be within your rights to dock pay in some circumstances, but exempt employees do not get paid for overtime. If you dock an exempt employee who also tends to work on nights and weekends, you could end up on the hook for time-and-a-half or even double pay if you’re not careful. Make sure you understand the potential costs of docking an employee’s pay and do it only when necessary.
Employee absenteeism can be a problem, but the key to managing it is to put a firm policy in place, make sure that all employees understand it, and do what you can to nip absenteeism in the bud before it affects your bottom line. All of the above can be monitored and actioned upon using absence management software. Keeping track of your workforce in today’s business environment is an essential ingredient for the success of any organization. Employee Absenteeism is a problem in all organizations throughout the United States and must be managed and recorded in a way that suits both employees and employers.
5. How to Manage Unplanned Absenteeism on a Short Notice
Imagine you have an urgent project queued up for the next day. You have scheduled all the essential tasks involved and have assigned them to your team. You are sure that there is no way you won’t be able to complete the project in time. The very next morning, you reach the workplace, clock yourself in, and open your mailbox to check updates. And there is this email, from an important team member, calling in sick and requesting a leave. Can you decline the request? Certainly, not! But, how would you make up for the absence of the employee? This is the thing you need to worry about.
Unplanned absences are inevitable. However, they can definitely be overcome by incorporating some smart strategies in your management designs.
Maintain a Job/Task Description Handy
Being a manager, it is your responsibility to have a clear and concise knowledge about your employees’ jobs, as well as the tasks or operation you are supposed to supervise. The descriptions about an employee’s role as well the tasks are to be maintained in a written or digital format. This will ensure that even in the case of an urgent an unplanned absence of an employee, there won’t be any hassle or disruption in the process.
Automate Roster Management
Smart and automated systems such as a Mitrefinch workforce management system is an efficient way to manage multiple shifts, and task allocation and scheduling function. A workforce management system not only helps in the efficient allocation of tasks, it also tracks the status, progress, and performance and generates notifications and alerts in real-time.
Review Your Leaves and Time Off Policy
Most companies classify the annual vacations and casual and sick leaves under separate heads. These leaves are paid and do not cast a slash in the employees’ monthly wage. In the case the employees have already consumed their annual leaves, they might utilize their annual or sick leaves, even if there is no need or emergency. Therefore, to avoid such practices, you need to review and revise your time-off policy.
It is essential to standardize the essential and regular tasks happening within your organization. Devise a proper system and train and educate your employees on the best practices and standard methods of consuming their leaves. This will not exactly eliminate absenteeism from the root. However, it will reduce it to a bare minimum.
6. Flex Work: The Cure for Seasonal Absenteeism
Have you ever heard of “seasonal absence syndrome?” It is a common occurrence for many businesses. During certain seasons of the year, businesses typically experience a high number of unplanned absences. However, traditional businesses don’t work like the mail system. Their workers don’t come in in snow, rain, sleet. While the absences may seem sudden, they typically follow a pattern. In fact, most businesses can predict when unplanned absences are going to occur.
In most cases, these abrupt absences follow distinct patterns. During certain times of the year, inclement weather is typical. Virtually every season causes distractions and sicknesses. Believe it or not, a keen business can determine when this epidemic is going to hit. As a result, the HR department can better prepare for cases of limited employee availability.
A smart solution is to implement a flex work system. With this in place, any business can avoid these predictable disruptions in overall productivity.
Unpredictable Absenteeism Results in Unexpected Business Costs
When an employee can request time off in advance, everyone else on the team can make sure the absence is covered. It also provides the worker time to get things done early, before leaving. However, if unplanned absences become a regular occurrence, they can undercut the collaborative process. As a result, productivity suffers. When employees are absent without notice, it can result in work not getting done. This can cause businesses to start missing deadlines. It may also result in delays in completing a project, and slower response times.
Even returning to work after only a few days off can result in delays. Several adverse consequences might occur. When the worker returns, they have to adjust their routine for a while. They also have to handle work they missed during their time off. This further hinders productivity.
Some businesses attempt to reduce unplanned absenteeism. One method is to offer incentives for those who come to work regularly. However, if a person comes in sick, this also results in a drop in productivity. The sick individual may spread their germs to others, too. This is not a smart way to combat unplanned absences.
Predicting Absences and Increasing Productivity
Emergencies happen. Unavoidable events occur. However, many unexpected absences follow a seasonal and predictable pattern.
- When the weather changes in fall, it is the start of flu season. Workers or their kids are often ill. This is also the kick-off to the holiday season, which results in people taking off for various reasons.
- During the summer, workers are tempted to take off to enjoy the warm weather or to go on vacation.
- Seasonal changes can cause illnesses in the spring. It is the start of sinus season for some.
- During the winter, icy roads can make workers remain home.
Each of these seasonal changes results in businesses trying to come up with innovative solutions to ensure quotas are met. They also have to find ways to help maintain productivity and motivate employees to show up at work. However, what appears as unplanned absences are predictable circumstances. Any business can plan for these. With a flexible work policy in place, they can feel confident that productivity can remain high.
Creating a Flexible Scheduling Plan
When you implement a flex work policy, you can handle unplanned absences. Flexible working schedules implement several techniques that ensure employees still get tasks done. When this plan is implemented, you can often avoid employees missing time at work completely. Here are some ideas:
- Provide mobile work arrangements that allow employees to work while on the go.
- Let employees go if they want to remain outdoors. Workers are often more motivated when working next to the pool.
- Teleworking is a great option for employees with sick kids.
- Sick employees can also work via teleworking while ill.
- If there are adverse weather conditions, workers can remain home while still handling their work.
If you plan on implementing a flexible work plan, you can also implement a method to ensure shifts are covered at all times. Utilizing an employee availability system at this point is also beneficial. There is specific employee self-service software that all business employees can use. They can indicate days they are available for work, even if it isn’t their typical schedule. As a result, HR managers can easily see who to call if an unexpected absence occurs. This ensures work is covered and productivity doesn’t slip.
Is a Flex Work Right for Your Business?
This is a question you need to consider carefully. While it may seem like a difficult change at first, this is typically not the case. When employees know they have flexibility in their day to day schedule, it provides more motivation. This results in increased productivity. Keeping employees happy is easy. Reducing unplanned absences is also possible. By implementing flexible working conditions, workers are going to get things done at work. They can still spend time doing things they enjoy, too. When you think about it, flexible working plans are a win-win for business owners, managers, and employees.
If you are ready to implement this scheduling option, having the right software is a must. It can make covering unplanned absences easier. This reduces the work for the HR department. It can also help ensure deadlines aren’t missed and that productivity doesn’t fall. If you are ready for a better solution, consider flexible working plans. It can help you keep workers happy while ensuring business functions don’t suffer.
7. What You Can Do to Arm Your Company
Employee absenteeism is a difficult problem to tackle if you try to do it without an effective tracking mechanism in place. You will always get legitimate and poor excuses for why employees miss a day or two of work.
It can become challenging to monitor, control and reduce these instances effectively. Unless your attendance policy requires a written doctor’s excuse, it is difficult to determine whether an employee is actually sick.
Simultaneously, it is just as important that you consider the extra costs of having a sick employee infect others. Taking time off is not the ultimate problem; taking too much time off that negatively impacts your business is the larger issue.
Resolving the issue begins with recognizing patterns. Once your attendance system alerts your to exceptions and other issues, you may consider several solutions:
- Incentives for good attendance
- Communicate attendance expectations
- Make employees feel safe to discuss personal problems that may be the culprit
Occasional absences are expected. Being prepared to deal with missed work days before your profit margins are affected empowers you to respond to and reduce absenteeism
8. The Big Payoff from Lower Absenteeism
Employers and employees alike stand to gain in multiple ways when absenteeism rates among staff members begins to decrease.
With a workforce that shows up on time and ready to work, productivity increases. Work deadlines are met on time. Co-workers experience less stress when everyone on the team is present to pull their weight. Supervisors also enjoy lower stress when managing a reliable, trustworthy and productive team.
Best of all, the company’s bottom line itself enjoys greater stability, which then rewards every employee in the company with a steady paycheck in a very unsteady economic time.