6 Ways to Reduce Employee Absence from the Workplace

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Daniel GrovesBusiness Growth Consultant

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

While sickness and absence is often unpredictable and a part of life, what can managers do to reduce the impact it has on business?

Article 6 Minutes
6 Ways to Reduce Employee Absence from the Workplace

Since the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, employee absenteeism has risen exponentially. There are many reasons for this, from sick leave or holiday entitlement to self-isolation or mental health problems. However, frequently high levels of employee absenteeism can have a profoundly negative impact on your organization.

This article will provide you with helpful and actionable tips on how to reduce employee absenteeism in your workplace.

What is employee absenteeism?

The term ‘absenteeism’ refers to an employee’s regular or habitual absence from the workplace. Typically, these absences are intentional and go beyond the occasional vacation request or sick day. Instead, these absences are typically unexpected (or unexplained) and often for extended periods of time. Some of the most common causes include:

  • High levels of stress and burnout
  • Feeling undervalued and underappreciated at work
  • Harassment or bullying in the workplace
  • Mental health struggles
  • Family or relationship difficulties
  • The need to provide care for others
  • Bereavement
  • Chronic illness

While companies of all sizes should expect their workers to miss a couple of days of work every year, excessive staff absenteeism can have an adverse effect on the company’s finances, deliverables, staff morale and productivity. So how can you reduce employee absences?

Let’s take a look at some of the most effective strategies.

1. Provide the necessary support

Employee absences should always be followed up with a quick check-in just to make sure everything is okay. This is true even for employees who have been absent for a single day, due to cold and for symptoms, for example. Checking in on absent employees is a great way to show that you care. It also lets employees know that you’ve noticed they’ve been gone.

If an employee has been absent due to personal reasons, such as bereavement in the family or a personal struggle with mental health issues, it’s important you provide the necessary support. They may prefer a more flexible work schedule or they may require counselling from a professional. Whatever they need, it’s important to provide the necessary support. This can go a long way towards reducing repeated absences in the future.

2. Introduce mandatory testing

The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on employee attendance, making it difficult to decipher those who were absent from work for genuine reasons and those who were absent because of playing the system. Now that we are emerging from the worst of the pandemic, it’s important to consider how to keep absences in your workplace at a low level.

I recommend introducing mandatory lateral flow tests. Requiring your employees to get tested regularly and report their results will help reduce the number of unnecessary absences and protect those who are working from employees with presenteeism (the need to work through an illness). Mandatory testing is a great way to protect your employees and monitor absences more effectively.

3. Have a clear absence policy 

Many organizations struggle with high levels of absenteeism simply because they do not have a clear absence policy in place and, as a result, fail to monitor staff absences effectively. Having an absence policy is key to reducing staff absences as it outlines how staff should report their absence, how much pay they will receive and any repercussions that may incur following regular and/or unexplained absences.

Sometimes, just outlining your policies and requesting members of staff to read and sign the document can go a long way towards reducing absences from the workplace. It helps set your expectations, outline what kind of behaviour is accepted and provide company-wide consistency.

4. Request feedback often

As the head of an organisation, or even a team of people, it can be difficult to know how to support your employees effectively. If you have noticed high levels of absenteeism it’s likely that you want to take action to remedy the situation. However, this is hard to do if you don’t first ask your employees for feedback.

The best way to reduce employee absenteeism is to request feedback often. Send out a survey at the end of each month (note, if you want honest feedback it will need to be an anonymous survey). Surveys are a great way to gather feedback from your employees about how they are feeling, what they are stressed about, whether they are struggling - personally or professionally - and what kind of changes they would like to see in the workplace.

The benefits of employee surveys cannot be underestimated. Taking the time to listen to the needs and wants of your employees is a great way to tackle absenteeism. And it will also help you make proactive changes around the office that will directly meet the needs of your employees - keeping everyone happier for longer.

5. Offer flexible working schedules

If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that the 9-5 working day doesn’t work for everyone. When you are busy running a company, it can be easy to forget your employees have lives and responsibilities outside of work. From childcare commitments to meet-ups with friends, we all have things going on in our lives. And it’s important that companies start to recognise this.

If you want to reduce absenteeism in your workplace, you might want to consider offering flexible working schedules to your employees. Giving control to your employees and letting them decide when and where they work can have a positive impact on retention, mental health and wellbeing, and rates of absenteeism.

6. Create a positive work environment

The type of work environment you create can trigger your employees or it can calm them. It can be difficult to create a work environment that is positive, affirming, and enjoyable to spend time in - particularly when you are trying to keep everyone happy. Thankfully, there are some steps you can take to boost your company culture and create a more positive work environment.

  • Take breaks: First, it’s super simple but it’s super effective; encourage everyone to take regular breaks. Whether you schedule the time into the calendar or you launch Taco Tuesdays as an incentive, it’s imperative you encourage your employees to take regular breaks.
  • Make the space greener: You should also introduce greenery into the office. Plants can help create a more soothing environment and they are also great for your health!
  • Create relaxation zones: Sometimes your team members simply need a place where they can go and chill out. Creating relaxation zones in the office is a great way to look after employees mental wellbeing, create a more relaxed vibe, and cultivate a culture that values self-care.

Creating a positive work environment is all about creating a space that people want to spend time in. You want to create a positive employee experience. If you’re unsure what your employees would respond well to, just ask! I can guarantee they’ll be full of ideas.

Final words

Taking proactive steps towards reducing employee absenteeism is essential to the success of your business. Unfortunately, absenteeism in the workplace isn’t one of those problems that fix itself on its own, it needs to be directly addressed.

Daniel Groves

Business Growth Consultant

Daniel Groves achieved a 1st class honours degree in Business Economics. Since graduating, Daniel has collaborated with a number of online publications with the aim to further develop his knowledge and share his experience with like-minded entrepreneurs, business owners and growth strategists.

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