Running a successful organization today is like solving a big puzzle, where the scattered bits and pieces resemble your business and workforce. Even if one piece is missing, the entire puzzle becomes useless. Similarly, employee absenteeism can make the company incomplete.
In any given company, it is common to find three-four chairs empty on any given day. In most cases, the managers allow their employees to take some time off by approving their leave applications. Many times employees also go on a sudden leave without taking permission, which is still acceptable, depending on the circumstance and the organization. Having said that, things in the workplace do start to unravel if such sudden absenteeism keeps rising in the company. After a while, it becomes unacceptable when an employee starts taking many leaves without any proper reason or notice. Before listing the reasons and remedies, let us answer some commonly asked questions related to employee absenteeism in the workplace.
What Is Absenteeism?
The easiest definition of what is absenteeism is the frequent leave taken by an employee from work. This kind of absenteeism is considered as a habitual absence that is not a paid leave and has not been authorized. Agreed, that it is not a piece of cake to pull yourself up and show up for work every day. The organizations understand this fact, and they have leave policies in place for employees for certain situations such as sick leave or emergency. But when employees start taking advantage of such policies and misusing them, it results in absenteeism. Employee absenteeism is a serious and important concern. Especially when employees start arriving work at late or skipping days altogether, they add up to the absenteeism rate. Such behaviour leads to low morale and a decrease in the productivity of everyone. Yet, many organizations are failing to address this notion.
Who Does The Absenteeism Affect?
Unauthorized and unannounced leaves affect both, an employee as well as the employer. Any manager would want to know about their employees’ leaves in advance. Suddenly taking leave without informing creates a dilemma for the employer. An employer would like to be prepared and make sure that the office is not under-staffed on any given occasion. Facing such an unfortunate situation can heighten the employers’ liabilities in terms of additional labour expenditure that a company has to encounter to cover up the productivity lost due to missed hours of absent employees. Additionally, absenteeism increases the workload on the other employees, that later results in an employee’s being unhappy with his/her job and feeling burnout. When an employee is continuously absent, not only do they lose out on the salary, but they lose their reputation too. If such employees continue with the habit of absenteeism in the workplace, it is likely that they will be fired from their jobs.
The Impact Of Good Leadership On Employee Absenteeism
Every company has a different technique of handling things with strict protocols for performing various functions and handling critical situations that consist of employee absenteeism too. Various studies have found that good leaders and managers who put in extra efforts and time to know an employee on a personal level can help in reducing absenteeism. Good leaders are supportive, show an astounding work ethic and routine, that empowers and motivates others to do the same. When you take an initiative to know your employees’ grievances personally, it helps to build a good rapport of transparency and trust between an employee and the organization. They will feel they are important and valued, and this will automatically reduce their absenteeism as they will start feeling a sense of responsibility towards the organization. You definitely can’t force your employees to take fewer leaves or implement any rules if they are following absenteeism. Good managers try to work on creating a work atmosphere where employee thrives together to perform their best. This is the reason that to minimize absenteeism, the managers have to spend more time on employee engagement and increasing employee morale.
Employees who are not attached to their work or colleagues, often end up taking leaves to avoid that atmosphere, which leads to absenteeism. The main reason for this is that an employee feels that their presence won’t really make any difference to the organization or their co-workers. The fact that employee engagement is crucial for workers to be satisfied with their work-life is purely psychological. Hearing, practicing, and strategizing a personal culture with every employee is an amazing way to minimize absenteeism in the workplace.
Before implementing this, just keep in mind a few things that can help you, such as-
• Give every employee the flexibility to choose their own work
• Don’t implement micromanagement
• Show greater appreciation for their work well-done, either verbally or with rewards
• Let them know how important and valued they are in the company
By following the above-given pointers, you can ensure job-satisfaction for every employee, thereby reducing their absenteeism and making the team more productive and engaged.
No matter what kind of work, everyone likes to be appreciated once in a while. If they do not receive it, it triggers them to take more leaves as they feel unhappy in that work-environment. Having said that, in today’s world employee morale can diminish due to many other reasons, but a negative work-atmosphere is the most prevalent cause. A work culture where colleagues don’t respect each other or get along well is very unhealthy and unproductive for the organization. This dilemma can be solved by creating weekly or monthly activities where every employee can get to know each other personally. Pot-luck lunches or team outings can be arranged by the manager to improve the bond between every employee.
Causes of Absenteeism in the workplace
Now let’s have a look at what are the main reasons that result in employee absenteeism in the workplace. The key causes of absenteeism are-
• Low employee engagement
Employee engagement is a crucial part of the millennial work culture. In short, it is a practice followed by organizations to improve the bond between an employees and their work-place. Employees who feel they have a good bond with their company and co-workers are more likely to perform more productively than the others who don’t think so. Having no employee engagement or low bond is one of the key reasons for employee absenteeism in the workplace.
• Time theft
Absenteeism in the workplace doesn’t always mean taking an entire day off or various days off altogether. Employees taking unnecessary breaks between their work, or coming late and leaving early also counts as absenteeism. Additionally, it raises the question of an employee’s dedication towards the work and the company and created a dent in their reputation.
• Lack of work flexibility
Work flexibility has become a necessity rather than a luxury for the millennial workforce. Employees have created their own social life which they want to enjoy and maintain a perfect work-life balance. In such a situation, the lack of flexible working can create a lot of friction between an employee and the company, which in turn leads to employee absenteeism.
Feeling burnout is the cost of low performance shown from the employees’ side. This mostly happens when an employee is working round the clock and not taking any breaks. Almost all organizations overlook the issue of workplace burnout. A good manager knows how essential it is for every employee to take out personal time to rejuvenate and relax. However, in most cases, employees are forced to follow a rigorous working schedule. And, in the long-term this leads to the employee taking off work time, leading to regular absence from work.
• Substance abuse
This is something that happens all around the globe but is not discussed often. Many times employees succumb to unprincipled means of relaxing and rejuvenating. One of the most common examples of such a situation is alcoholism. Employees tend to lose track of time when they begin abusing substances on a regular basis for stress relief. It breaks down the employee both mentally and physically by destroying their motor functions and their ability to think practically. Therefore, not realizing their duties towards the organization and leading to absenteeism.
• Misuse of seniority
When employees have been a part of an organization for a long period of time, they get accustomed to a certain lifestyle and its way of operating. They feel that they are seniors, they are not entitled to informing anyone about their leave or absenteeism. Therefore, the heads of the company should also put rules and regulations in place to check the leaves of employees in a senior position.
• Workplace harassment
Many people face harassment in their lives on a daily basis, especially at work, but are scared to open up about it. Harassment can happen to any gender, male or female, and in any form, physical or verbal. Such sensitive issues create a negative impact on an employee’s mental and physical state. They start getting scared and hence stop showing up for work whenever they feel insecure. The cost of this is that it leads to absenteeism in the workplace.
• Mental health issues
All of the reasons stated above ultimately lead to a mental breakdown. Having positive and sound mental health is very essential for employees to work hard and receive the appreciation and reward that they deserve at work. Although, the continuous inflammation of workload in all the organization makes it next to impossible for anyone to take care of their mental health. Therefore, to achieve the much-needed break and positive state of mind, many employees start taking leaves to go on holidays and rejuvenate and relax their minds. This becomes a regular thing as workload never decreases, and the need for taking care of mental health also exists. After a while they stop announcing their leaves and take off whenever they feel like, leading to absenteeism.
Also Read: 5 Leave Management Tips for HR Managers
Remedies To Deal With Absenteeism
Handling and reducing absenteeism can be made a very simple process with a well-structured leave policy effective within the company along with attendance management tools. Such policies should entail the number of total leaves, which is categorized into paid leaves, unpaid leaves, who should be contacted for the leaves, and how much time prior. Making and implementing such policies and making strict adherence to them can reduce absenteeism. There are many other remedies through which absenteeism can be reduced such as-
• Regular polls and surveys
Conducting polls and surveys are very crucial for solving the problem of absenteeism in the workplace. As a matter of fact, it is the first and foremost thing to do when you are thinking of eliminating the issue of absenteeism. Knowing what an employee feels about his/her colleagues, work and organization can help you a lot in knowing the root cause of their absenteeism. Many people are afraid to take the initiative and talk about their problems. Since polls are anonymous, the employees can easily share on the personal topics without being ashamed or tensed. The kind of questions that should be asked in the surveys are also important, as they should bring out the needs of the employees, such as
1. How do the employees commute daily?
2. Are they facing any work-related or personal issues?
3. Are they fine with their work schedule?
4. How many members in the family and how many require special attention?
5. Any ongoing treatment for any critical disease or any mental health issues?
6. Are they satisfied with their jobs or need any change?
And so on. Or if the problem of absenteeism in your workplace is related to only a few people, you can always take a more personal route and have a one-on-one conversation with them regarding their issues or needs.
• Flexible work timings
Introducing a flexible work schedule has become a necessity nowadays as the workforce is dominated by millennials. If the employees have the flexibility to adjust their hours or from where they work, they will show more connection and appreciation towards the company. Moreover, it helps them to maintain their work-life and personal-life balance. Needless to say, employees who maintain the perfect balance between their work and professional life, are the most productive and engaged, and thus outperform themselves every time at work. If the employee knows that an organization has the option of flexible work hours, they will definitely stay in the company for the long haul and also reduce absenteeism as they won’t be needing a lot of leaves.
• Grievance calls
As mentioned earlier, the reason for absenteeism can vary from person to person. For some, the reason for absenteeism can be unusual and serious. Every company should place a group of people who are good at handling grievances or are strong enough to maintain discipline in the office. Being strong is very essential when it comes to handling sensitive situations such as harassment or bullying. Having such a support group at the work-place will make it easier for the employees to come and discuss their problems and be provided with a solution for it so it doesn’t lead to absenteeism in the workplace. Additionally, it will also make the employees feel positive and safe in the work-place, thereby boosting their morale and productivity.
• Employee engagement programs
Organizing various activities to engage employees can help in hooking them to the office. Such programs remove the vertical hierarchy of the organization and makes every employee feel important, from the low-level employees to the managers. It diminishes the bridge between the employees and employers and make them feel privileged about working in an organization where they are treated fairly and equally. Employee engagement activities or programs can be structured and personalized based on the available resources and budget of the organization. It is not necessary that to improve the engagement the organization has to take employees on a luxurious trip or give them costly gifts. It can also be structured in an affordable way such as monthly lunch where everyone can play different games and get to know each other more personally. Acknowledging and appreciating the employees is a sure-shot way of reducing absenteeism in the work-place.
• Employee wellness program
The tremendous increase of sudden workload makes it almost impossible for employees to take out time for themselves. It is fine till a time, but after a while, the employees start feeling burnout. This in turn causes a lot of health issues and thus lesser productivity and concentration at work. Introducing a wellness program in the workplace can help the organization to reduce absenteeism to a great extent. Such wellness programs are specially designed to address the problems faced by the employees by simplifying their lives in various ways. With advanced technology, it has become easier than ever to execute such corporate wellness programs and reduce absenteeism.
• Rewards and appreciation
Incentivizing an employee with a good attendance record is a great way to minimize absenteeism. Once the employees know that workers will be rewarded and incentivized for maintaining good attendance, it will motivate them also to do the same. Rewarding and appreciating the employees on a regular basis is very crucial. It can be done in various ways, such as a day off to unwind themselves, or a dinner package. Or gift coupons, etc. Rewarding the employee with the highest attendance will push others also to earn it, thereby reducing costs of absenteeism.
• Return to work interview
Many times when people return to work after a long period of time, there is a high chance there will be a noticeable change in their work productivity and behaviour, resulting in a declined interest in work. Conducting return to work interviews will help the employer know whether or not the employee is fit to resume work while being productive. Organizations can also hold orientation programs for such employees to invoke the workaholic side of them.
What many organizations need to realize is that employees are human beings and not robots. They need a break from work from time to time to relax and spend time with their loved ones. Making sure that the employees are working in a healthy work environment is very crucial to reduce absenteeism. Now that you know the reason for employee absenteeism, you can tackle the issue seamlessly.
To learn more about why giving space to the employees is important for improving productivity, read up our other HR-related blogs here.