How to Avoid And Deal with Employee Absenteeism

Learn what effect does employee absenteeism have on your employees and what strategies you can apply to reduce it.

December 31, 2021 By Sara Ana Cemazar Share on Twitter! Share on Facebook! Share on LinkedIn!

employee absenteeism

Every workplace depends on employees carrying out their tasks. When employees are absent, their workload and daily tasks need to be managed – redistributed to other team members, put on hold, or carried out by a replacement.

Employee absenteeism represents a serious issue for employers. Besides the financial costs, it has a negative effect on an absentee and his or her colleagues. Depending on how big the issue is, absenteeism can impact productivity and work morale.

Read on to find out what are the effects of employee absenteeism, what causes it, and how it can be decreased. 

➡️ Get to the basics first: find out which questions do employees use to evaluate their employers and gain better insights into what drives positive employee experience – meaning less absenteeism!

What is employee absenteeism

Employee absenteeism is a term used to describe employees’ frequent absence from the workplace. That being said, it does exclude periods of paid time off and other justified cases of missing out work, like being sick.

What characterises employee absenteeism is the lack of valid causes for missing work. Moreover, absenteeism does not necessarily refer to employees missing the entire day of work.

More often than not, employees get to work late or leave earlier than they’re supposed to, which also counts as absenteeism and has a negative impact on the workplace.

employee absenteeism

The effect of employee absenteeism on the workplace

Employee absenteeism impacts workplaces in more ways – none of which can be described as positive.

Increased costs

When employees are absent from their workplaces, employers’ administrative costs increase. Moreover, they sometimes need to find a replacement to carry out the tasks of the absentee.

Research on the financial losses due to employee absenteeism says that unscheduled absenteeism can cost up to $3,600 per year

Moreover, CDC found that workers with chronic health conditions cause $36.4 billion losses in productivity on an annual level in the US.

employee absenteeism

Work spillover

When employees miss work without a valid reason, their workload needs to be carried out by someone else. This often means that absentees’ coworkers will have to take on additional tasks, especially if the absentee’s work is of high priority.

Taking on someone else’s work is not always easy. Sadly, it can also be overlooked by superiors who don’t recognize the person taking on extra work.

Drop in morale

Employees whose colleague is frequently absent from the workplace can get demotivated by their teammate’s behavior and employer’s inadequate reaction to it.

This can cause a serious drop in employee motivation and can prove to be a real hazard to teams.

Disrupt team relations

Teams are usually made of people that compliment each other’s skills and experience. So when one team member is frequently absent, it disrupts the way that team works.

Other team members have difficulties completing their tasks if they are dependent upon the absentee’s tasks. Their trust in an absent colleague can deteriorate, making future collaboration harder.

Reduced productivity

All the reasons mentioned above lead to reduced productivity and this is the main reason why employers dread absenteeism. 

Employee productivity is directly related to profitability and business success. However, the problem with absenteeism is not easy to solve and that’s why employers must search for new ways to approach this issue in their rows.

What causes employee absenteeism?

There is no simple answer to why employees skip work. Moreover, there can be multiple reasons why. These reasons can be both of private and professional nature.

Workplace stress

Stress is a common denominator to many workplace issues. It is no different with employee absenteeism.

46% of employees say that their stress stems from their workload, while 20% claim its main source is juggling work and personal life.

When employees are stressed out, it can affect both their physical and mental wellbeing. These can seriously increase absenteeism rate.

➡️ Find out what are the best ways to reduce work-related stress.

employee absenteeism

Employee burnout

Employee burnout is one of the main reasons employees skip work. It is caused by long periods of untreated workplace stress and leads to feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope with everyday pace anymore.

More often than not, employee absenteeism is caused by burnout. Research shows that 60% of absenteeism is related to psychological stress and stress-related burnout.

Lack of work flexibility

Sometimes, reasons for work absenteeism are not that hard to figure out. When employees have a long commute to get to their workplace, or pick up their kids from daycare at a specific time, they miss work more often.

Lack of flexibility in when or where work gets done is one of the most easily resolved causes of employee absenteeism – if the nature of the work itself allows it to be flexible.

In fact, flexibility is the biggest advantage of remote work according to employees.

Poor team relations

Sometimes the workplace stress stems from bullying or mobbing in the workplace. 

Psychological damage that bullying does can inflict real harm to people and they can start avoiding situations in which it happens – hence stopping to come to work.

Health problems

Just like we mentioned before, untreated chronic diseases can lead to absenteeism and productivity losses. However, mental health issues can also contribute to absenteeism.

Strong disengagement

On the other side of the spectrum of burnout lies boreout. This term is used to describe lack of mental underload at work and leads to strong employee disengagement.

When employees do not want to spend time at work, it can lead to absenteeism as well as increased employee turnover.

employee absenteeism

Other personal reasons

There are personal reasons that lead to absenteeism but employees might be unwilling to disclose them openly. Some of them include caring for another person that could be disabled, mentally unstable, or just needs help.

Sometimes, people could be grieving for a lost family member or a friend for longer periods of time.

How to decrease employee absenteeism

Although employee absenteeism can be caused by many reasons, the good news is that it can be reduced. Employers can improve the company culture whose aspects might be driving employees to skip work.

Also, organizations can support their employees in private matters that cause absenteeism. The most important thing? Knowing what actually drives employees to skip work.

Frequent employee surveys

The first step towards any kind of change is knowing what actually causes employee absenteeism. That’s why it is crucial to conduct regular employee surveys and detect possible causes for it: poor relations in the team, high stress levels, too much workload, and more.

Employee wellbeing programs

Employee wellbeing programs have a myriad of benefits for your employees, but also for an organization. By helping your employees stay active and healthy, you will decrease the possibility for low productivity and employee absenteeism.

For example, Johnson and Johnson estimated that their wellness programs saved them around $250 million that would otherwise be associated with productivity and health insurance costs.

employee absenteeism

Allowing for a flexible work schedule

Since an inflexible work schedule can cause employee absenteeism, there is a very simple solution to reduce it: allow employees to work from wherever they want to, and when they want to!

Obviously, this is not applicable to all jobs, but it is for some. Employers are too often afraid that work from home will have negative consequences on their employees, while it will probably have a positive impact.

Support in dealing with difficulties

Companies sometimes fail to support their employees in difficult life situations. The fact is that lending a helping hand in those moments is something that your employees will be very grateful for.

Employees’ loyalty cannot be bought, but it can be earned.

Decreasing workplace stress

Decreasing the amount of stress that employees have to deal with in the workplace is a great technique to decrease employee absenteeism and increase employee retention.

This can range from providing benefits such as yoga and psychotherapy to working on creating a better employee experience throughout the employee journey.

Strengthening teams

Investing in improving team relations is always a good idea – especially since it can improve productivity and employee engagement.

Team building activities as well as appointing the right manager is the key to building strong and equal teams. 

➡️ Find out how different management styles can shape teams.

Recognizing and rewarding presenteeism

Another great way to decrease employee absenteeism is to recognize and reward presenteeism. In general, employee recognition is a way to support and reinforce habits and behavior you want to see more of.

employee recognition playbook