Employee absenteeism isn’t just a headache for HR managers: the CDC reports that absenteeism costs US employers $1,685 per employee on average. That’s a massive hit to the bottom line for a company of any size. To begin curbing absenteeism and the related productivity losses, it’s important to approach employee attendance with the right mindset. Avoid reducing attendance to mere adherence to rules; often, absenteeism is a symptom of larger workplace issues, and can be resolved with adjustments to company policy and the work environment. Here are five strategies to reverse absenteeism trends and keep employees making productive contributions at work.
Make attendance compliance measurable
Clear attendance policy is the first step toward reducing absenteeism. However, clear policy is no good without a way to measure compliance. Be sure to define what it means to be tardy or absent. Is an employee tardy who arrives one minute late? Five minutes? Six hours? At what point does tardy turn to absent? It’s also important to define clear expectations for meals and breaks, as an employee may arrive at work on time but stretch an hour lunch to two. Further, define clear consequences for tardiness and excessive absenteeism. Will there be warnings, formal reprimands, pay cuts, or eventual termination?
Track employee work time
Once a measurable attendance policy is in place, one of the best ways to keep employees accountable is through time tracking software solutions. Online and mobile clock-in systems remove the hassle of keeping logs or signing in on time sheets. Employees can simply punch in on a computer or tablet, or even scan in with a QR code. With this, all employee work time data is stored and compiled effortlessly, and there is no question as to whether an individual is in compliance with work time hours.
Support employees who are absent
Employees miss work for a wide array of reasons, from illness to burnout, childcare obligations, or even workplace bullying. As absences due to chronic health, social, or family problems accumulate, returning to work can become overwhelming and this stress can result in even longer absences. Employers can keep such absences from snowballing out of control by communicating with employees about the reasons for absences and how the company can offer support to avoid missed work in the future. Perhaps that’s rearranging the workplace to help an injured employee get around more comfortably, or allowing a parent to arrive and leave work early in order to pick up children from school. Showing support will not only help alleviate immediate attendance problems, but will help employees feel valued and view work as a positive environment.
Provide flexible work opportunities
Employee support can also take the form of flexible work opportunities. That could mean allowing employees to work on flex time, or bank overtime to make up for an extra day off. An employee who sees the work schedule as inflexible may creep into excessive absenteeism if he or she cannot see any other way to reconcile personal obligations and responsibilities with work. When offering such opportunities, however, it’s important to set clear expectations and boundaries in order to avoid abuse. Digital time tracking systems are handy for keeping track of exactly when and where employees are working so that no work hours get lost in the shuffle.
Increase employee engagement at work
Disengaged employees are much more likely to take sick leave and even quit their job than those who feel motivated and purposeful at work. Thriving Small Business suggests that creating a culture of employee engagement is largely about company leadership communicating with employees, providing opportunities for development, and rewarding positive behaviors. When employees feel that their work is meaningful, their time is valued, and that management supports them, being absent from work becomes less attractive than clocking in on time (or early!) and making productive contributions.