How To Combat Absenteeism From The Top, Down

22nd Jun, 2020 | Resources

While it is easy to blame employees for absences, the causes of absenteeism are directly linked to the outcomes of workplace culture. By understanding these causes, business are able to implement clear cultural initiatives that impact these causes for all employees and can help remove the barriers to attendance. 

What is Absenteeism?

Absenteeism is the frequent and deliberate missing of work – either through time theft (showing up late, leaving early or taking extended lunch breaks) or by missing whole days. While the ultimate decision to miss work does lie with the employee, businesses can address these causes at a company-wide level and improve outcomes for individual employees.    

What Are The Causes?

Excessive absenteeism is usually caused by issues with the health and well-being of employees or their family members. Affecting both mind and body these causes are directly related with outcomes in workplace culture and include:  

  – Burnout: Staff are overworked and fatigued or they’re overwhelmed by stress that comes with a culture of unrealistic expectations or demands.

  – Disengagement: Staff no longer enjoy being at work so the desire to stay home is strong. This can relate to their environment, their professional relationships, satisfaction with their role and their career prospects.  

  – Bullying: Bullying costs employers 18 million days work every year. This includes people taking leave to avoid their harasser or to deal with the stress of being bullied.

  – Family Care: Employees stay home to care for children or elderly parents when they are sick or their care arrangements fall through and their workplace does not offer work-from-home opportunities
  – Illness: From cold & flu to gastro, to chronic disease, there are a number of reasons staff might be unwell. However, illness is heavily influenced by workplace stress and elements of the physical environment (lighting, ergonomics, staff density)

How Can You Start Addressing Absenteeism?

By understanding the causes of Absenteeism and addressing them directly, businesses improve attendance and create a culture of happier, healthier staff.

Illness: Obviously there is no way to eradicate illness, but the right cultural initiatives can create healthier employees, and lessen the instances of illness.

By offering subsidised gym memberships, getting fruit delivered to the office or simply organising a walking group for lunch times, you can make it easier for employees to have better health outcomes, and feel the impacts less when they do get sick.

Additionally, initiatives that help stop the spread of illness, like supplying tissues, reminding staff to wash their hands and cough into their elbows, and even encouraging sick days when they are needed, will stop one sick staff member turning into ten.

Bullying: No workplace intentionally encourages bullying, however the workplaces that have the best attendance are the ones that foster good employee relationships and actively discourage bullying.

If you identify a bullying problem, take action.

No matter the performance outcomes of the bully – no amount of individual success can repair or balance out the damage done to a culture and the resulting productivity, by a workplace bully.  

Through team building opportunities, using external training to upskill management to identify and address bullying (or to have the tools to manage without bullying themselves) and by implementing anonymous reporting procedures, you can take steps to build an inclusive and tolerant environment that aims to be bully free. As these steps are implemented,  instances of bully-related absenteeism will drop.

Burnout: If staff are left in a position where they feel like they need to regularly sacrifice rest and their personal life to get work done, they are bound to end up needing to take days off. Appropriate balance comes down to culture and  burnout or stress driven absenteeism can be alleviated by:

  – Insisting staff go home on time

  – Team mindfulness activities, like yoga or meditation

  – Regular reviews of workload and process efficiency

  – Bringing in temporary staff to assist with workload overflow or peaks in demand

Family Care: This may seem as though it is unrelated to work, however creating opportunities for employees to meet their work and family commitments simultaneously can cut absenteeism almost immediately. Where possible, allowing staff to work from home, so that they can care for children or other dependents when arrangements fall through provides an immediate solution to missed work.

Once businesses recognise that there are cultural aspects to the leading causes of absenteeism, they can begin to take concrete actions to minimise the behaviour and stem productivity losses.