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Every successful organization knows that its ability to thrive depends on the reliability of its people. However, employee absenteeism is a major concern for organizations, leading to an average annual loss in productivity of USD 530 billion for U.S. employers.
One of the leading reasons for unplanned employee absences is due to health-related issues, including stress and poor mental well-being. With nearly 15% of the UK workforce facing mental health issues at work, it’s imperative that organizations find ways to boost employee wellness to help keep absenteeism rates low.
This guide to reducing absenteeism can help managers identify the reasons for employee absences and discover some effective strategies for controlling absenteeism rates.
Top Ways to Achieve Reduced Absenteeism at Work
Though managers will never completely eliminate unplanned absences, they can take steps to reduce absenteeism in the workplace. Organizations can achieve a decreased absenteeism rate by better understanding the root causes of unplanned absences and knowing the right solutions to prevent chronic absenteeism.
Below are eight strategies for how to reduce employee absenteeism.
1. Understand the Causes of Absenteeism
To implement an absenteeism reduction strategy, it’s essential for managers to first understand what’s causing employee absences. Some of the top reasons for a high employee absenteeism rate include:
- Low employee engagement, morale, and job satisfaction
- Poorly defined expectations and job duties
- Illness, stress, and burnout at work or at home
- Workplace bullying or harassment
Knowing what causes absenteeism allows managers to prevent and solve the problems that lead to employee absences.
2. Track and Monitor Employee Absences
If you want to reduce absenteeism in the workplace, you need a way to measure it. Keep track of each employee’s absence history, including when they were absent and for how long, as well as the reason.
By tracking each case, managers can notice patterns of absences, giving organizations a greater ability to understand and control absenteeism.
3. Improve Communication
Sometimes, absenteeism is due to poor communication between employees and management. Managers must make it clear to employees what their entitlements are, such as the number of sick days and paid vacation days available, as well as paid leave options.
If employees continue to demonstrate absentee behavior, then address their unapproved absences immediately. One strategy is to conduct a return-to-work interview. A structured conversation eases employees back into their roles while helping managers better understand any challenges the employee is facing.
4. Monitor Metrics Related to Absenteeism
If your organization is concerned about a creeping absenteeism rate, consider taking a closer look at other key metrics. Many other commonly tracked performance metrics can be directly or indirectly related to absenteeism.
Metrics like productivity, engagement, employee retention, and turnover can indicate potential causes of absenteeism that organizations can control. If you notice that while absenteeism is high engagement is also low, then working to increase engagement may help curb high absenteeism rates.
5. Make Teamwork Part of Your Company Culture
One of the top effects of absenteeism is the stress it causes co-workers. When one or more employees are chronically absent, the workload falls on other team members.
Employees with a deeper sense of belonging tend to consider how their absence affects others. Emphasizing a culture of teamwork and support for fellow co-workers can help employees remain conscious of the impact their absenteeism has on the team.
6. Implement a Hybrid Work Model
Offering employees flexible work options may help address some absenteeism causes like childcare, commuting, or illness. A hybrid work model has become increasingly popular, particularly since the pandemic made remote work more available.
Give your employees the ability to set their own schedules and to decide, within reason, which days to work remotely vs. in person. Communication and scheduling tools make it much easier for remote employees to stay engaged, reducing the risk of unplanned absences.
7. Tailor Benefits to Employee Needs
Workers may be absent for different personal reasons, so offering flexible perks can be a valuable benefit to employees. Many organizations allow employees to choose which types of services or reimbursements their benefits go toward. For example, a busy parent might choose to use her health spending account on childcare rather than a gym membership.
Keeping company perks flexible helps employees adjust their benefits to their personal needs, giving them more freedom to remain committed to work.
8. Invest In Employee Wellness
Poor health, chronic illness, and stress are some of the leading causes of absenteeism. By investing in your employees’ personal health and well-being, you can not only help keep your absenteeism rate low but also potentially see an increase in productivity and profitability.
Employee wellness programs help workers take charge of their personal well-being, whether it’s their physical fitness, nutrition, sleep, or stress levels. Over time, as employee well-being improves, absenteeism decreases as employees remain fit and healthy for work.
FAQs About Workplace Absenteeism Reduction
If you’re concerned about high absenteeism or you’re revising your absenteeism policy, review the below answers to frequently asked questions to help guide you.
1. How Does Absenteeism Affect the Workplace?
Some of the costs of workplace absenteeism include:
- Reduced productivity and team performance
- Poor customer service levels
- Lower profits and other financial losses
- Decreased health and well-being of co-workers
When employees are chronically absent from work it not only negatively affects productivity but can also have an impact on workplace morale. The entire team may begin to suffer when one or more team members are absent for an extended period.
2. How Much Absenteeism Is Acceptable?
An acceptable absenteeism level depends on the organization and the size of its workforce. Generally, smaller companies feel the impacts of absenteeism more than larger ones.
Managers should have a way to calculate the organization’s absenteeism costs, setting a threshold for when absences become financially harmful. Aim to keep your absenteeism rate at 1.5%, which is 3-4 days off per year per employee due to illness.
3. Which Industries Have the Highest Absenteeism?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest absenteeism rates by industry and occupation in 2021 were:
- Service occupations — 5.0%
- Production, transportation, and material moving occupations — 4.1%
- Sales and office occupations — 3.4%
The lowest absenteeism rates by occupation were among management professionals at 1.9%.
Reduce Absenteeism Rates With Workplace Wellness Programs
Investing in workplace wellness programs is one way of reducing absenteeism. Workplace wellness programs help mitigate some top risks of absenteeism, including illness and stress. Additionally, employee wellness programs have also been shown to improve morale and engagement at work, potentially helping to keep absenteeism low.
When choosing a workplace wellness platform for your organization, consider the benefits of the Wellics employee wellness program. Our powerful platform gives busy managers an all-in-one resource to track employee wellness activity and results. Use Wellics to set custom goals, such as reducing absenteeism, and to track personalized metrics so you can see tangible results.
Learn more about the Wellics employee wellness platform today.
Originally published September 27, 2022 - 5:25 AM, updated November 21, 2023