Habitual absenteeism can wreck your bottom line. So why does it happen, what effect does it have and how can you deal with it?

Reasons to stay in bed…

Absenteeism can be a simple matter of drinking too much on a Sunday and being too hungover to venture out from under the duvet one Monday of four. It can hint at depression, workplace stress, overwork, not having enough work, family troubles and, rarely, simple laziness. Or it can have deeper, more sinister roots, with chronically low employee morale at the heart of the matter. Whether it’s because of unfair low pay, a lack of training, a lack of respect for the employer or sheer boredom and frustration, it’s a business killer.

Dangerous for business

When people take unscheduled time off it means the employees who turn up have to work harder to fill the gap. It spreads unrest and, left unchecked, creates a culture in which absenteeism is normalised. It increases your overtime overheads. You can miss deadlines, customer service levels can drop to unacceptable levels and you can even lose out on opportunities as a result. If you pay sick leave, the cost sends your bills through the roof… and it’s money wasted. All this ultimately leads to lower productivity, which in turn damages bottom lines.

Whatever size your business, habitual absenteeism is nasty. It’s just easier to spot when you only have four employees, easier to miss when you employ hundreds or thousands of people.

How to deal with absenteeism?   

Now and again, people are genuinely ill. But when taking time off becomes a habit, it soon eats into an organisation’s profit margins.

How can you resolve the issue? The first thing you need to do is recognise the pattern as quickly as possible. Once you’ve identified an issue, you can take action. Here’s how:

 ·         Find out exactly why it’s happening and do what you can to resolve the issues

·         Incentivise attendance

·         Operate an ‘open door’ policy in which employees feel safe and comfortable discussing their problems with HR

·         Talk about absenteeism with people who regularly take days off instead of burying it

·         Identify, warn and if necessary terminate serial offenders rather than letting it lie

·         Create a culture that expects attendance

·         Check candidates’ attendance records before employing them and make clear your expectations from the offset

·         Always follow up references to help you spot serial offenders

·         If all else fails, pay a professional organisation with a track record of reducing absenteeism and let them loose on your business.


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