Addressing Absenteeism – The Road to Happier Employees

You’ve seen it before. Interviews go well and an offer is made. Your new employee shows up ready to jump in. They are throwing out ideas, absorbing onboarding material, and genuinely excited to be part of the team. But then something shifts. They start arriving late with less enthusiasm than before. Callouts increase and productivity nosedives. They are physically there but mentally elsewhere. All of the sudden you have found yourself with an absentee employee.

It can be a frustrating experience. What caused the employee to physically and/or mentally leave? How do you reel them back in? Try not to go grabbing for the termination paperwork just yet.

Businesses have always had to deal with absenteeism in the workplace, but throw in a pandemic and it has become more prevalent than ever. Missed work from employees calling out has increased substantially. It can be perplexing at a high level to understand what prevents someone from being able or wanting to show up to work. Thankfully the root issue might be simpler than you think.

It turns out that the culprit of absenteeism usually lies in a few key factors which center around one main theme: employee happiness, or rather – unhappiness. Low morale, unclear expectations, and poor communication can all lead to loss of production and take a costly toll on an organization. It behooves employers (and employees) to get to the bottom of why absenteeism occurs in the first place and take action to tackle it head on.

a man in a black suit holding up a sad face emoji that is covering his face 

So just how much is absenteeism causing your organization?

The cost of employee absenteeism is massive and demands attention. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “productivity losses from missed work cost employers $225.8 billion, or $1,685 per employee, each year.” And while it varies from industry to industry, it is nothing to bat an eye at.

When an employee can’t do their job, loss of production occurs. This is the most direct and easily tracked impact missed work has on a company. The vacancy can lead to overlooked deadlines, poor quality of service, potential fines and late fees, and a whole slew of other issues.

man in a blue shirt with dark hair and a beard, with his head in his hands looking at a computer

But the cost of missed work snowballs from other avenues as well. What isn’t as widely known or addressed is the burden it places on the immediate circle around the absentee employee. Management is spent dealing with the absence, employees have to take on additional work to compensate, human resources gets brought in, and stress mounts. The cost of that unavailable employee not only increases your bottom line, but affects the entire staff’s workload and morale. This can create a slippery slope, which is why figuring out what is causing the absenteeism is crucial.

Happy employees are present employees.

Happy employees generally want to come to work. This ties closely with the leading causes of absenteeism, which are stress and burnout, an unhealthy work environment, poor management, lack of work life balance, and low morale. The good news is that these are direct symptoms of culture and culture is something that employers have control over.

happy woman scanning a box in a warehouse with other happy employees in the background

Improving culture has a significant influence on employee happiness which in turn leads to increased productivity. This should be on the forefront of every employer’s mind, arguably right up there with profit. When employees come to work happy they collaborate better, strive harder to achieve goals, remain loyal longer, and are overall healthier, cutting down sick days and personal time off.

What is even better is that employee happiness is contagious. If working harder and increasing revenue didn’t sell you, your happy employees can also be one of your best recruiting tools. When companies create a strong culture centered around communication, transparency, authenticity, and recognition, employees want others to be a part of it, referring the business to their network of professionals and peers.

Now that you know some of the factors that contribute to absenteeism, it is time to lay the groundwork of a smart strategy to combat it. 

So what can you do to create a simple strategy to reduce absenteeism in your organization? 

Find the problem by looking at the data.

black woman in warehouse scanning boxes and smiling

Start by collecting data on which departments and roles have the highest absenteeism rate. Once collected, pinpoint consistencies and patterns. This can help find departmental and managerial concerns that shouldn’t be ignored. Training managers to live your culture and foster healthy relationships benefits everyone and can prevent and reverse absenteeism and turnover.

Check for experience, skills, and issues.

Next, review specific positions with high rates of absenteeism. Is there any unknown skill gaps? Do you have enough of a mentoring program to help new associates? Do you focus on onboarding, and if so, is it a comprehensive enough plan for that position?

Does the employee lack confidence, and doesn’t feel secure in their role? Maybe it’s time to see if you have the right experience and skill mix in that department overall, and in that individual. If an employee is lacking confidence in the ability to do their job or the skills themselves, that can be a huge red flag. This is a good time to take a look at your hiring process and make sure you are hiring for both experience and skill.

white man at a saw working in a shop with another man next to him working with tools in the background

Make a clear plan, and stick to it!

Once you have that nailed down, create a clear and solid attendance policy. Make sure the policy is consistent, fair, and communicated companywide. Once implemented, reward good behavior and acknowledge the employees showing up every day and giving 100%.

Create a culture that makes people want to come to work.

And last, but certainly not least, put in the effort to build a fantastic culture from top to bottom. Take the time to map out what kind of culture you would want to be a part of if you were just starting at your organization, and work backwards to create that for your current and future employees. Employees can see right through empty words, so employers should be authentic in their approach. Although culture is unique company to company, concentrate on open communication, flexibility, employee well-being, growth, recognition, and teamwork.

It is important to remember that a better culture means happier employees, higher morale, improved attendance, and a place where people want to be.

GTR can help.

Not sure how to create a winning culture? GTR has great resources available. Our holistic approach to recruiting and hiring means we work with our business partners to alleviate the stress that hiring and retaining employees can cause.

Our comprehensive approach to establishing the right strategic recruiting plan gives our clients a competitive advantage for talent and gives our contract associates access to reputable companies and quality positions to build their lives and careers.

Contact us today to learn how we can help you confront absenteeism and build a workforce that works.