By guest author: Alan Price is Peninsula’s Group Operations Director and CEO of BrightHR, the most popular HR software and support service for SMEs in the UK. He oversees the support that the company offers SMEs across the UK, Ireland and Canada and regularly contributes content relating to HR and employment law issues.
There are many reasons for absences from work. When they’re planned, it can be something to look forward to. However, unscheduled absences from work can be detrimental to the work environment.
Although there are legitimate reasons when an employee may need to an unscheduled day off work, there’re also instances where these absences are intentional and habitual.
As well as its impacts on productivity, the consequences of absenteeism are far-reaching and can affect productivity, morale and your overall business goals.
In this piece, we’ll highlight the impacts of absenteeism when left unaddressed. We’ll also explore the causes and offer some tips for reducing it in the workplace.
What is absenteeism?
It’s a pattern of absence from work without a legitimate reason. For example, during the final season of Game of Thrones, a study from The Workforce Institute found the over 34% of US employees (27.2 million) admitted they’d most likely call in sick, arrive late or be less productive than normal.
It was the same in the UK, research found that up to 3.1 million people either call into work sick or arrived late.
While excuses like these aren’t an actual reason to be absent from work, there are some legitimate excuses for unplanned absences, they include:
- Personal leave
- Sick leave
- Bereavement leave
- Jury duty
- Family emergency
Causes of absenteeism in the workplace
There’s no one reason for absences, it can be down to a variety of reasons. Many of these reasons are legitimate but a few of them aren’t.
Some of the most common causes include:
- Harassment and bullying: While several cities and states are taking steps to address this issue (the New York State Human Rights Law for instance, requires businesses with 15 or more employees to hold a 1-hour anti-harassment training session), it’s not uncommon for people being bullied or harassed to want to avoid the place it happens. This is also the case in the workplace when an employee is being bullied or harassed by a co-worker or employer, they’re more likely to call in sick to avoid the situation.
- Depression, stress and burnout: As well as developing further mental health issues, depression, stress and anxiety can cause employees to miss work. Increase pressures at work, financial worries and relationship issues are some of the main causes of burnout, stress and depression.
- Childcare and other family obligations: From time to time, some employees may need to take an unscheduled absence from work to look after a dependent or an elder family member. It could be down to arrangements falling through or the family member falling sick.
- Lack of engagement: Disengaged staff are those that aren’t committed to their job, colleagues and the company as a whole. These workers are more likely to miss work simply because they aren’t motivated to go in.
The impacts of absenteeism in the workplace
Absences from work can affect your business as well as your employees. You can see its effects on your business’s bottom line, finances and productivity.
There have been many studies into the impacts of absenteeism, the number one impact is the cost it has on businesses and the economy.
In the US, the Gallup-Healthways wellbeing survey found the total costs related to lost productivity about to just over $84 billion annually.
In the UK, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) estimated the cost of absences per employee was at £554 annually.
Apart from the financial impact, other elements affected include:
- Performance: This should go without saying but the performance of an employee that regularly misses work won’t be up to par with those that don’t. When they miss work often, their performance is bound to suffer, as they would have lost time on projects, training and updates. All of which can lead to low morale in the work environment.
- Reduced productivity: With declining performance come required productivity in quality and quality of work. And with staff being away from work, it’s up to the managers to try to reorganise projects or move deadlines (which doesn’t make you look good to your clients).
Tips for reducing absenteeism in the workplace
The first and most important tip is to create an absence policy. This sets the rules for absences from work and goes into details on what qualifies as an excusable absence and what doesn’t.
It should also have wording relating to the procedure for registering absences including the name and phone number of the person to call to register their absence. Other tips for reducing absenteeism include:
- Supporting staff members: Once you have a policy in place, the next step is to have a system in place that supports your employees experiencing problems. By investing in Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) you’re offering your staff a support system that they can assess when experiencing problems in their personal or professional lives.
- Feedback: You should endeavour to provide regular feedback for your staff. This doesn’t just have to be when they’ve done something wrong, you should also try to acknowledge their success as well.
- Incentives: Another option is to have incentives for employees with good attendance. This encourages those that are absent often and motivates those who are always at work.
- Customer service: Absent employees can lead to a reduction in your service standards, which can then go on to damage your reputation and even limit potential business growth.
While these aren’t the only effects of absenteeism in the workplace, they are some of the most common ones. It’s important to take steps to try to reduce absenteeism levels with your workplace.
Before implementing any of these measures, it’s important to consider the reasons for absenteeism in your workplace and try to address that problem. But, your first step should be a detailed absence management policy.