Absenteeism

2019-07-26

$225.8 billion: this is what absenteeism costs employers every year on average in the United States. Are you shocked? You should be. According to the Business Dictionary, absenteeism is a "Voluntary non-attendance at work, without valid reason. Absenteeism means either habitual evasion of work, or willful absence as in a strike action. It does not include involuntary or occasional absence due to valid causes, or reasons beyond one's control, such as accidents or sickness.”

What makes people not want to go to work? What are the consequences? Are there solutions to fix this problem? If these are the questions you are asking, you're in the right place to get answers.

Causes

To begin with, the causes of absenteeism are varied and often poorly understood or difficult to address:

  • A non-existent work / family balance where the employee has to give up working days in order to look after a relative
  • A toxic workplace where the employee feels sidelined and / or harassed
  • Altered mental health in the workplace leading, for example, to unsupported depression or burnout. Burnout has recently been classified by WHO as a "medical condition", so it is particularly important that managers know and know how to spot symptoms

Consequences

The consequences of absenteeism are more or less obvious to identify, but the most blatant costs that result from this problem are above all monetary:

  • Wages paid to employees who are absent
  • Overtime worked by employees as a replacement
  • Administrative costs of managing absences

This is only the tip of the iceberg. Beyond direct costs, managers also have to deal with the indirect costs:

  • Decrease in the overall quality of the service
  • Decrease in employee productivity
  • Decrease in employee motivation
  • Time wasted attempting to assign an employee available to an orphan shift at the last minute

While the financial consequences may certainly hurt a business, the indirect consequences of the problem must not be neglected. The motivation and productivity of employees present is to be observed especially since, if the situation does not get better, they could also be subject to absenteeism. Let’s not forget how this might impact the quality and delivery of your product or service as well as the satisfaction of your customers!

Solutions

No worries, solutions exist! The first things Human Resource managers can do, even if it may seem self-evident, are:

  • Listen to employees by organizing individual meetings
  • Put in place workplace wellness policies, such as physical exercise
  • Provide the opportunity to work from home to provide more flexibility

One solution is still more effective in the long run than others: aggregation and data analysis.

Through regular and detailed reporting, the number, timing and reasons for absences can be effectively quantified. The HR manager will then be able to be aware of all the specific aspects of the situation: What is the problem that causes the employee to be absent? Why this problem exists and persists? And what decisions need to be made to stem this problem?

To do this, manual solutions exist, of course, but automated solutions can provide more detailed  and relevant data collection and reporting capabilities. Amongst other things, they can provide the ability to incorporate company-specific absentee related filters, while automatically generating the report.

The considerable advantage of this practice is time saving and results. In fact, the hours that HR managers will no longer have to devote to data collection and full reporting can be used in tasks that require more human contact.

Observations

It is important to recognize the many reasons an employee may be absent on a recurring basis and the many direct and indirect consequences these absences may have. HR managers can provide automated tools to collect the information needed to generate detailed reports. They will thus enable them to carry out an analysis of the factors of absenteeism in order thus to put in place solutions allowing to stem the problem.

But be careful not to put in place anti-absenteeism practices that are too rigid. An overly strict regulation set up abruptly could lead employees who are regularly absent to presenteeism. Investopedia defines presenteeism as a "Presenteeism is defined as the problem of employees who are not fully functioning in the workplace because of an illness, injury or other condition. Even though the employee may be physically at work, he may not be able to fully perform his duties and is more likely to make mistakes on the job." The costs of presenteeism are almost 10 times greater than those of absenteeism, with a total of $1.500 billion spent unnecessarily each year.

Having practices that are too steep can therefore shift the problem rather than solve it upstream with the appropriate automated tools.


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