Employee Absenteeism

Employers expect that workers will miss a certain number of workdays each year. Between sick days, personal days, and vacation days, it’s a given that employees will not be at work each and every day. But when those days off become excessive, it becomes employee absenteeism, and that becomes a problem.

What is Employee Absenteeism?

Absenteeism is an employee’s intentional or habitual absence from work.  When an employee starts showing a pattern of absenteeism, it can have a major effect on several things. Whether it decreases productivity or forces someone to handle multiple tasks which lessens their focus on their own job, employee absenteeism is a problem that affects the entire company. When morale begins to decline due to employee absenteeism, employers must determine a course of action.

Reasons for Employee Absenteeism

There are, of course, legitimate reasons for missing work such as caring for a child or a loved one in an emergency. Along with these, however, are the reasons that cause employers to question an employee’s commitment to the job.

Even those legitimate reasons can become an issue and must be dealt with before it grows into a larger, company-wide issue.  Some states, like California, have adopted mandatory paid sick leave policy for employees to use. Even with these, prolonged or chronic employee absenteeism can still affect a company and leave the committed employees hanging out to dry.

How Absenteeism Can Harm Your Company

Recently, we asked CEO’s and other business leaders to provide their thoughts on “What effect does employee absenteeism have on business?” Here are those responses.

The Effect on Morale

“The roles our team members have are intricate and require knowledge of all team members, so when there are absences, it is disruptive. The team members who are here feel put out and sometimes stressed. They are forgiving and accepting when it is occasional, but when it happens unexpectedly or frequently, there is resentment. When the team members feel overworked and have to cover for other team members, they are less ‘happy’ with customers. We are also unable to do our ‘above and beyond’ service, which we feel can eventually impact the bottom line. If we are not able to reach out to customers for up-sell opportunities and to generate additional business because we are too busy doing other things, it definitely impacts our bottom line.”

– Deborah Sweeney, CEO, MyCorporation.com

“High absenteeism adversely impacts morale. Other employees begin to feel as if they are constantly taking up the slack for those employees who are chronically absent and feel used/taken for granted/taken advantage of. These employees can become resentful, angry, and sullen. When employees feel this way for extended periods of time, their customer service skills drop, their willingness to contribute plummets, and their interaction with other employees becomes more strained.”

– Tiffany C. Wright, The Resourceful CEO

Effect on Productivity

“Absenteeism is a huge distraction for any service agency. I own a design/development digital agency and when people take time off or call in sick, it can have a massive effect on our throughput. As a result I’ve initiated a liberal work from home policy to entice those who are sick to simply work from home and not lose the time. It also helps me know if people really ARE sick or taking advantage of the policy.”

– Pete Czech, Founder, New Possibilities Group, LLC

Combatting Employee Absenteeism

“I am now an HR consultant, but when I was working as the HR director of a mid-sized manufacturing company in 2008, I spearheaded an initiative to significantly reduce absenteeism. When I first assumed the role, absenteeism was around 10% each for the two plants. We initiated a very comprehensive attendance management program that reduced absenteeism to about 4% within the first 7 months. After the first two or three years of the program, absenteeism was tracking at around 2% and held steady until I left just last year.”

Michael Timms, President, Avail Leadership

“Absenteeism can be caused by a number of reasons ranging from biological to cultural issues. For instance, a building can be making workers sick. Another consideration is lack of daycare for parents due to low income. And, the list goes on. However, the most common reason is due to a poorly run office creating a negative work culture. In cases of a negative organizational culture, absenteeism isn’t the only indicator on the rise. Usually there’s a high level of tardiness, in-fighting, extended breaks, dropping revenues, and even theft. Like vultures and maggots are indicators of death and decay, businesses suffering death and decay exhibit indicators through said tardiness, absenteeism, etc.”

Ken Johnson, Culturalist, Author, and Conflict Dynamics Specialist

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