A key issue faced by employers is how to deal with absence management in the workplace. This means finding a way to institute a comprehensive absence management policy that maximizes the days that employees come to work and minimizes the number of days they are absent.
It is considered absenteeism when an employee is intentionally or habitually absent from work. While it’s expected that workers will miss a certain number of workdays each year, excessive absences can lead to decreased productivity, reduced staff motivation, and poor customer service levels, all of which can have a negative effect on company finances.
Today we’ll examine some of the reasons for absenteeism, the costs associated with lost productivity, and how a sound absence management policy can boost morale and reduce absenteeism rates in the workplace.
Reasons for Absenteeism
There are countless reasons why people miss work. Many are legitimate, while others are questionable or out-and-out scams. Some of the common legitimate causes of absenteeism include things like injuries in and out of the workplace … sickness … job hunting … childcare and eldercare responsibilities … harassment by coworkers … job burnout and low morale …depression … and lack of motivation due to disinterest in the job or feelings of being underpaid.
Also keep in mind that just because an employee is physically present at his or her job, they can still contribute to absenteeism. For example, arriving late, leaving early and taking longer breaks than allowed are considered forms of absenteeism and can affect productivity and workplace morale.
Workplace distractions account for a significant percentage of lost productivity. Recent research showed the average employee received 304 business-related emails weekly, spent about 16 minutes to refocus attention after handling incoming email, and checked email an astonishing 36 times an hour. The same research found the average employee lost 31 hours a month in meetings and was disrupted around 56 times a day—taking an incredible two hours out of his or her day to recover from these disruptions.
Costs of Lost Productivity
Several challenges stand in the way of employers instituting absence management tools that accurately track and measure employee absence and lost productivity. In Fortune 500-size businesses these challenges include sometimes having hundreds or thousands of employees spread across multiple geographic regions, separately administered various benefit programs such as workers compensation and group health, and multiple state and federal mandates on
family and medical leave. Additionally, on-the-job distractions can often not be measured. For example, the NCAA basketball tournament (aka “March Madness”) is thought to cost businesses somewhere in the $4 billion range in lost productivity due to time spent filling out brackets and watching live tournament games while at work. Even online shopping while at work—especially during the holidays—is a tremendous drain on productivity.
In a survey by Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, 94,000 workers were surveyed across the United States in 14 major occupations. For nearly 80% of workers who fit the survey’s definition of having a chronic health condition, it is estimated the total annual costs in lost productivity related to those workers totaled $84 billion.
Another study concluded that absenteeism cost roughly $2,650 annually for a salaried worker and $3,600 annually for an hourly worker. These costs included wages paid to absent employees, wages paid to temporary employees, overtime wages for colleague coverage, plus the administrative expense of managing absenteeism. Other related costs and results of absenteeism include poor product quality, reduced productivity, excessive management time,
safety issues, and poor morale among employees who have to do extra work to cover absent coworkers.
What Employers Can Do
The challenge with installing an absence management system is there are both legitimate and poor excuses for missing work. This makes it difficult for employers to effectively monitor, control and reduce absenteeism. One technique is to require a written excuse from a doctor, but the #1 reason workers stay home from work is the common cold—something for which very few people go see a doctor. So, if that person is then compelled to go to work, employers must consider the added costs associated with a sick employee who could spread an illness to a
lot of coworkers or customers.
The good news is there are some absence management methods that businesses can employ to keep employee absenteeism to a minimum.
These methods include:
Writing an attendance policy — Companies have had great success in reducing absenteeism
simply by writing an absence management policy. Sound policies should include the definition for being tardy and what constitutes excessive tardiness or absenteeism. The policy then becomes a standard for the company’s absence management best practices.
Setting clear attendance expectations — The keyword here is communication. Share the
attendance policy with employees as soon as they are hired and discuss what your expectations are for attendance. In the event an employee will not be coming to work, let them know how to notify the organization and who specifically the employee should contact. Employees should understand how often unplanned absences is acceptable, and what the consequences will be for excessive absenteeism.
Rewarding good attendance — Smart companies provide absence management benefits by rewarding good attendance records. For example, they may give employees a reward or bonus for having no unplanned absences in a predetermined time period, usually 1-year. They also incorporate attendance bonuses into annual performance appraisals as another way to incentivize employees to maintain a good attendance record.
Providing employee support — Everyone experiences a challenging time of life at one point or
another. Providing absence management in HR (Human Resources) departments are then crucial in helping employees deal with whatever issues might be affecting their attendance. This kind of support can help employees through a difficult time and make them feel they are valued by their employer.
The Final Word
The cost of absenteeism in U.S. companies runs into the billions of dollars each year in lost productivity, wages, and poor quality of goods and services. Also, the employees who do show up to work are often burdened with extra duties and responsibilities to fill in for absent coworkers. This often leads to feelings of frustration, anger, and a decline in morale.
As mentioned above, there are many legitimate reasons why occasional absences from work are inevitable. People get sick or injured, have to take care of others, or need time during business hours to handle personal business. But it is the habitual absences that are most challenging to a company’s well-being and that can have the greatest negative effect on coworkers. Because missed work days have a profound financial effect on a company’s bottom
line, it is beneficial for businesses of all sizes to implement a sound absence management strategy to fairly monitor, reduce and respond to excessive absenteeism.
To learn more about how you can implement absence management best practices in your place of employment, including customized reports based on your business needs, contact Mitrefinch today.