Tips For Handling Employee Absenteeism

18 Aug 2015 in Business

Even in the best of circumstances, your employees cannot be around all the time. They are, after all, only human and a lot can happen to a typical person during the working year. Anything from booked vacations, to family emergencies, to simply being too ill to come into work. Employee absenteeism is not too much of a problem if planned long term. A vacation booked several weeks or months in advance leaves plenty of time to adjust schedules and work responsibilities. However sudden, short-term absence can leave your company in the lurch, especially if you are already suffering from a lack of available staff.

Employee Absenteeism

In an ideal world, you can trust your employees to be honest with you. If they phone in to say they are sick, it is nice to be able to believe they are stricken with some nasty virus. Same with any other reason they may be unable to come in. However, not every employee is that honest.

Every company will have members on their team who, for whatever reason, don’t commit to their work in the same way their colleagues might. They may show up late for work habitually, phone in sick every other month, or just fail to show on exactly the wrong day. Indeed, you may well see a spike in sick days around Monday and January at the best of times. While the typical response is to grit your teeth and complain about lazy good-for-nothing layabouts, it is sometimes helpful to be a little more tolerant and try to look at things from your team’s point of view.

Sometimes, when team members display absenteeism, it may indicate a lack of motivation towards their work. This may be because the workload is too high, the environment is somewhat oppressive, or they feel a sense of disconnection from the upper management. There may also be situations where team members cannot help but be frequently absent, such as people suffering from acute allergies or possessed of weak immune systems.

There are several tactics for helping to reduce absenteeism, and implementing them will work wonders for keeping your staff available and motivated.

Absence Tactics

  • Increased Vacation Time. A simple way to increase commitment to work is to increase the available time for paid vacation. The national average for vacation time is around two weeks a year, not including public holidays such as Christmas or Independence Day. This does not actually leave much time for proper vacations and is usually eaten up by more mundane matters (such as days spent housekeeping). As such, employees are more inclined to call in sick days to make up for lost time off. Being more generous with paid leave can improve worker morale by ensuring they get enough time from the daily grind to let off steam and spend time towards their home life. It is also less disruptive to the work environment: if you know in advance that an employee intends to take time off at a certain time, you can more readily plan around it.
  • Offer Incentives. Remember to use a carrot as well as a stick, and to try to be positive in moderating your team’s behavior. Instead of punishing absence, try to reward attendance. Offer a reward for employees who never call in sick, for example, whether through cash incentives or an extra day or two paid vacation. The increase in productivity will more than make up for the cost of the reward.
  • Make the Working Environment Pleasant. If you suspect people are calling in sick because they find the workplace oppressive and unpleasant to be in, try brightening things up a bit. This can easily be done by instaling skylights and windows for more natural light, adding more potted plants for a bit more life, and maybe some added decoration for color and variance. Also, try to encourage pleasant behavior and staff attitudes too. Even if the work is fairly monotonous and drudging, a healthy and pleasant corporate culture can make it a thousand times more bearable.
  • Arrange Standardized Absence Policies. Make sure that there’s a clear procedure for employee absence. If an employee phones in sick, have them fill in a form listing when and why they were absent. Use a similar procedure for last-minute absences as well. The hassle of additional paperwork may help to discourage faking.
  • Be Consistent. Do not have favorites. If someone who is always on time turns up late, make them sign the late form. The same if someone who is never sick suddenly calls in with the flu: make them sign the sick form. If you start being unfair with how absences are dealt with, other employees will notice and they will be annoyed by it. Likewise, it may encourage normally punctual employees to think they can get away with unauthorized absences again in future.
  • Arrange Team Events. If your schedule allows it, organize a day – or even an hour – where the work briefly stops and the team can just have fun. A team-building exercise is one great example, or even a quick day out to do something as a company, such as an abseiling course or a raft-building competition. Doing so breaks up the weekly grind of work, and make the team more enthused about the corporate culture. This, in turn, reduces the temptation to take sneaky days off.

These are just some of the methods for discouraging employee absenteeism. Of course, no matter what you do, people will sometimes be sick on any given day. To help compensate, make sure you have all of the tasks required of these employees organized in such a way that you can redistribute workload easily. ERP software is fantastic for this, and many companies offer it, and I would recommend beginning your search at www.scoro.com.

The writer of this article, Christian Mills, is a freelance writer who specializes in business related topics. He provides advice to business owners to help them learn how to deal with the common problems of a company and to succeed. If you wish to learn more about Christian you can visit his profile on Google+.