Employee absenteeism creates a huge drain on a company. From disillusioned co-workers who have to carry the extra load to lost profits and productivity, absenteeism costs industries from the millions to billions of dollars every year. While it can be easy to dismiss an absent worker as being lazy, there are many reasons an employee could be absent.
External responsibilities can be a major cause, such as caring for a sick child or elderly parent. The employee’s own health could also be the issue, such as if they are suffering from depression or simply have the flu. Work environment should also be considered. If an employee is being bullied or suffering from burnout due to an excessive workload or simply feeling unappreciated, the motivation to come in every morning disappears quickly. Finally, an employee may be missing work because they are on the hunt for a new job and are using the time off to go to interviews or meet with a recruiter.
Needless to say there are many legitimate reasons to miss work, but for managers to determine what those reasons are can be a difficult task as most workers will simply call in sick, but it is crucial to find out the source of the problem, especially if it is rooted in a hostile work environment. Knowing the cause can also aid managers in preventing absenteeism, so here are some tips both on how to prevent and to handle employees missing work.
1. Create a Leave/Sick Policy
If your company doesn’t already have one, create a clear policy on how you will handle sick days and other types of leave, such as a death in the family. Be sure that the policy is clear on how to get leave approved and the consequences of having unexcused absences. Make sure all of your employees are aware of the policy, and be sure to enforce it. Having a policy does no good if everyone knows they don’t have to take it seriously.
2. Try an Incentive Plan
Let’s face it. No one likes to come into work on holidays or they day after a holiday, and certain times of year may tend to spur higher incidents of absenteeism. To combat this, consider creating an employee rewards program that offers extra perks or pay for coming in on those days. Rather than being a bribe, this communicates to employees that you understand their perspective, and that their work is valuable to the company.
3. Interview Returning Employees
When an absent employee returns to work, it is important to sit down with him or her in a non-disciplinary setting to find out what the problems are. Resist the urge to defend yourself if the employee feels your management style is the issue. Instead, try to work together to resolve the issue that is causing the employee to miss work. If, however, you are unable to find a legitimate reason, you may have to put the employee under performance review, and start documenting the actions you take in case the employee will have to be let go.
4. Create Some Flexibility
In the case of caring for a sick child or going to a doctor’s appointment, many employees feel they have no other choice than to call in sick or simply not show up. Instead, recognize that these types of situations come up and provide some flexible options to your employees that they can take without fear of punishment. For example, allowing employees to work from home once a month should they need to take care of a personal matter or offering flexible hours, so employees can work around a doctor appointment.
5. Focus on Employee Health
Be it physical or psychological health, all parties benefit if an employee is in a healthy, stable position. Promoting employee health takes time, effort and resources, but at the end of the day, it will result in a happier, more productive staff. The changes that will have to be made will vary by company, but allowing breaks, exercise and other forms of stress release can go a long way.