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11 Proven Strategies to Reduce Absenteeism in Your Workplace

Absenteeism decreases business productivity, which means lower revenues and profits. It’s a severe problem with a global impact. According to Gallup, daily stress among employees remains at a record high. It manifests in poor mental health, low productivity, or sometimes chronic absenteeism.

Assessing absenteeism’s cost is easy in the manufacturing or service industries. In other sectors, people work online and produce digital results, making an output harder to measure. It’s easy to dismiss absenteeism as a tiny cost of business. 

However, absenteeism causes cascading failure in streamlined workflows. The cumulative losses can be devastating. 

What strategies can prevent or reverse such setbacks?

The Causes of Absenteeism

You have to identify the causes of absenteeism to make sure you are in a position to prevent it. Employees may miss work due to a variety of reasons, including:

  • Burnout, high stress, and job dissatisfaction.
  • Family obligations or ongoing personal issues, including divorce, childcare, and eldercare.
  • Injuries, illnesses, and chronic illnesses, including doctor’s appointments or seeking specialist medical care.
  • Harassment and bullying. Employees who don’t get on with colleagues may skip work to escape poor work environments. Extreme pressure from colleagues can also cause intense workplace stress and anxiety.  
  • Mental disorders, particularly depression, can lead to disengagement. It’s also a leading cause of absenteeism.

It’s important to emphasize that absenteeism doesn’t refer to an occasional sick day or time off due to family emergencies. Only if an employee tends to skip work habitually, usually for an extensive period, can we consider absenteeism.

The Impact of Absenteeism

If an employee cannot work, his absence creates a gap in the company’s workforce. Even if other employees can step in, they must work harder. Let’s look at an example of how one absent person can cause an avalanche of missed profit and opportunities:

Peter handles Task X. Three other employees (Group B) depend on his results to complete their tasks. When Peter is absent, Group B can’t do their jobs. Even if someone steps into Peter’s shoes, Group B’s work quality may be different. It could mean further delays while Group B waits for someone to correct the quality. 

When production resumes, the pressure of regaining lost time may lead to poor-quality work. The predictable outcome is resentment towards Peter, especially if Peter seems to be getting off scot-free. The result can be a toxic work environment that affects team morale.

The company is paying absent Peter and Group B to produce nothing. Additionally, the company has to pay premium rates to replace Peter and pay the loyal Group B overtime to catch up.

It doesn’t matter whether you produce shoes or insurance policies. Absenteeism can negatively impact companies of every size.

Eleven Steps That Can Help Prevent Absenteeism

You can implement strategies to prevent or reduce absenteeism. These steps will improve workers’ lives and empower Human Resource departments. HR staff will have the resources they need to manage and address absenteeism when it occurs.

  1. Increase Workplace Flexibility: Remote work is valuable for attracting the best global talent. But even working from home just one or two days per week can help improve work-life balance. If that is not possible, consider introducing flextime or allowing employees to trade shifts. Flexibility empowers employees and can lead to better job performance.
  2. Introduce a Wellness Program: Promote healthy habits to reduce sick days and improve well-being. Offer advice on healthy food, encourage exercise, and provide mental wellness support. The long-term benefits manifest as reduced absenteeism and improved employee morale. Such savings often outweigh the costs associated with wellness programs.
  3. Support Mental Health: The American Psychological Association believes Americans are burdened by the cumulative effects of recent difficult years. They cite the COVID-19 pandemic, global conflicts, racism, inflation, and climate-related disasters. And now, we’ve added the possible threat of AI taking our jobs into the mix.

It’s almost impossible to overstate the importance of a supportive and respectful environment. Seek employee feedback and incentivize participation. Celebrate achievements and progress to foster a workplace wellness culture. 

  1. Provide Physical and Mental Health Coverage: Almost 51 percent of workers participate in high-deductible health plans. They regard medical insurance as critical to their physical and psychological comfort. A company contribution signals the employer’s commitment to employee well-being.
  2. Consider Counseling: Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) provide employees with third-party advice. Confidential counseling by an EAP counselor can guide and support employees during difficult times. Examples include times of personal or family stress, financial or medical difficulties, or substance abuse.
  3. Use Appropriate Technology: Remote working can challenge workers’ technical know-how. Provide them with a soft landing by employing up-to-date hardware and software. Create an online platform where they can get advice on dealing with small admin or technical issues. 
  4. Ensure Remote Workers Are Cybersafe: Ransomware and other malware statistics are on the rise. Since the introduction of AI, phishing has also become a common occurrence. Therefore, the company should provide basic training on how to stay safe from scammers and cyberattacks. Basic training can include safe file-sharing methods and how to update software

    It’s also essential to ensure safe internet connections. For example, a VPN for Windows or macOS will keep your IP hidden and encrypt all the online data in transit. This way, it will keep the company’s data safe and protect employees even after hours.
  5. Provide an Ergonomic Workplace: Comfortable chairs or adjustable desks can reduce back and wrist pain. An ergonomic setup may reduce workers’ medical costs and boost employee productivity. Some companies provide financial support to help remote workers get set up in comfort. 
  6. Provide Little Perks: Help employees balance work and home life. Start by arranging discounts with local businesses like coffee shops, restaurants, or gyms. Consider contributing to child care and daycare options.
  7. Formalize Policies and Procedures: Did you remember to formalize the company’s attendance policy? Is the newest version available to everyone? Written documents will help you set clear rules and spell out the steps to manage attendance issues. 
  8. Step in Early: Don’t delay if an employee shows poor time management. If you notice a trend, it’s better to step in and have a respectful conversation sooner rather than later. Addressing the issue early on can prevent it from escalating and avoid negative consequences.

Keep Planning to Prevent Disruption

Work environments don’t become inclusive and positive by themselves. It starts with the implementation of sound strategies to improve the workplace. First, identify possible causes of absenteeism. Next, take preemptive steps to support employee well-being. You’ll see how a well-thought-out support system will lead to a more engaged workforce. That’s essential for minimizing the negative impact of absenteeism on business operations.

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