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Absence Management: Three Ways Reducing Employee Absenteeism

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In How Absenteeism Kills Employee Productivity…and Impacts Your Bottom Line, we discussed the price tags – both financial and hidden – associated with absenteeism in the workplace. But how can a business better manage employee attendance to prevent it?

Before an organization can effectively manage its employees absences, it needs to better understand why poor attendance is an issue. And that’s easier said than done.

(For more in-depth information on minimizing employee absenteeism, check out our free Attendance Policy guide).

Understand Why Absenteeism Happens In Your Company

The range of reasons for absenteeism makes absence management especially challenging. Factors from culture and demographics to industry to job requirements each have an impact on employee attendance. These are specific to a business as an individual entity.

And then there are more general impacts to consider, as well. For example, according to the Gallup-Healthways Survey Well-Being Index looking at Employee Engagement, 51 percent of Americans across a variety of industries and locations are searching for new jobs or watching for job openings. The study also indicates mental health issues or chronic illness, burnout and childcare also impact employee attendance. And 72 percent indicated absences are higher on Mondays and Fridays and before public holidays.

Regularly surveying employees, either anonymously or in an open forum, and frequently discussing employee concerns with management teams can help employers specify the causes of absenteeism that are impacting their individual organization.

After establishing areas to address regarding absence management, consider taking one or all of these three steps to reduce employee absenteeism.

Define Attendance PoliciesThen Go One Step Further

According to a 2013 study, the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) reports two-thirds of companies have attendance policies for their employees. Attendance policies are commonly included in employee handbooks and distributed to new hires on or before their first day of employment.

Setting expectations for employees is an important and foundational step in absence management. Without realistic attendance rules, not only will employers struggle to measure the financial impact of absenteeism on business and productivity, but supervisors also have consistent guidelines to support them in holding employees accountable for lax attendance.

An attendance policy should include definitions and requirements related to paid time off eligibility, paid sick leave and personal time off, time off notification procedures, tardiness, specialized leave like FMLA or Military leave and more. It should be detailed and comprehensive.

To ensure employees fully understand and can easily access attendance policy information, a business can go one step further and develop a “quick reference” document for employees that includes information about why attendance matters, policies and expectations, incentives for attendance, steps for time off, tips for success and more.

Establish Generous Attendance Incentives

While disciplinary action and counseling may also be appropriate for a chronically absent employee, positive reinforcement in the form of incentives can also be powerful.

If your organization decides an attendance incentive program would be beneficial in its efforts to manage absences, consider the following ideas:

  • Publicly celebrate employees with perfect attendance with a special announcement or dinner with the CEO.
  • Roll over unused sick days or allow sick days to be cashed in for payment annually.
  • Attach attendance requirements to promotion opportunities.
  • Offer bonuses or additional paid time off for employees with perfect attendance.

If an organization decides an incentive program would support their attendance management program, be sure to establish realistic expectations and goals for the program and outline them in the attendance policy in the employee handbook. Be transparent about how the incentive is decided on and given. Incentives should not simply be left to the subjectiveness of the supervisory manager. Rewards should also be significant and impactful for the employee – no keychains or stress balls.

Just as when an organization is establishing the causes of absenteeism, gathering feedback from supervisors and employees is important. Don’t be afraid to ask what the perception of the incentives program is or to promptly fix what isn’t working.

Encourage Workplace Wellness

An increasing trend in managing absenteeism is supporting employee wellness.

This makes sense, as absenteeism is often linked to mental or chronic illness. There are numbers to prove it. In 2015, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported productivity losses linked to absenteeism cost employers more than $200 billion each year. Examples of employee wellness may include providing quality health insurance options for employees, exercise equipment or classes for employees during the work day, supplying health snacks in break rooms or contributing to an employee’s gym memberships.

But wellness does not only refer to an employee’s physical condition. Mental illness is also a leading factor in absenteeism. While a business can only do so much for an employee when they are not at work, an employer can directly impact the work environment of its workforce.

According to the Gallup-Healthways Survey Well-Being Index mentioned previously, more than half of the American workforce is job hunting, and 70 percent of employees report they are not engaged at work. (“The study defines employee engagement as those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.”)

The study suggests one area employers can impact an employee’s outlook on their job is to involve supervisors in supporting their teams. Clear expectations and a well-defined team purpose, recognition of the unique strengths of individual team members, pre-arranged activities that make it possible for team members to do what they do best, and focus on making sure the team has what they need to succeed are ways to improve employee engagement in the workplace.
Absence management is a challenging but important issue for any business to take on. To learn more about developing an attendance reference guide for your employees or an attendance incentives program, download our free, comprehensive ebook The Step-By-Step Guide to Minimizing Absenteeism with a Strong Employee Attendance Policy.

While ATS is passionate about time and attendance and excited to support organizations navigate workforce dynamics around timekeeping and employee time clocks, we recommend you reach out to your regional and/or local HR chapter for more information on common workplace advice and procedures.

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