How to Deal With Employee Absenteeism?

Mar 18, 2023
How to Deal With Employee Absenteeism?

This is a real problem for many companies. First of all, employee absenteeism has a cost. For example, in the United States, it amounts to $3,600/year per employee. In France, it is estimated at 3,500 euros per employee per year, or approximately 7% of the payroll. But the stakes do not stop at this aspect alone, important as it is.

The frequent absence of an employee can have many other negative consequences for the company. Productivity can be affected, team morale can suffer, and the organization's culture can also be a victim. This is true especially if the cases multiply. 

Of course, completely eliminating all absenteeism is an unattainable goal. However, in order to fight it and reduce it significantly, employers can act on different levers. If they are well implemented, they will bring results.

Do not confuse absence with absenteeism in the workplace

Attention: in order to properly frame the issues, it is essential to make a clear distinction between absences and absenteeism. The former can be justified (or not). But they have in common that they are exceptional or at least sporadic.

The opposite is true for absenteeism, which is defined, above all, by its recurrence. It is this situation that requires a global approach to understand the ins and outs in order to determine and treat the underlying causes, whether they are external (such as family problems) or internal (poor management) to the company.

Multiple causes

In order to effectively fight against absenteeism, it is therefore essential to determine its origin. The causes can be multiple and it is essential that the employer knows how to determine them in order to provide the most appropriate solutions to the different cases. Among these, we find most often :

Lack of pleasure at work: this is almost a given. Boredom leads to disengagement. Lack of satisfaction can lead to a conscientious employee becoming an absentee.

Lack of meaning: employees who do not see the value or purpose of their work may see their motivation sink and, as a result, prefer to stay at home rather than go to their job.

Team problems: obviously, if there is friction within a team, the work environment can quickly become a nightmare. Under these conditions, many may be tempted to stay home and keep warm.

Problems outside of work: they can be health or family related. In either case, it is certain that these can contribute to absenteeism.

What are the solutions?

Multiple causes require multiple responses. If, once again, it is impossible to completely eliminate the problem, it is possible to minimize it. How can this be done? Here are different possible solutions to fifth absenteeism.

Have a clear policy regarding attendance requirements: By setting clear rules for the company's attendance policy, employers can understand employee expectations and address issues as they arise.

Address the issue quickly: If an employee is frequently absent, the company will need to address the situation quickly. Employers and/or managers are strongly advised against procrastinating or the situation will deteriorate. On the contrary, a quick (and benevolent) intervention has every chance of turning into a win-win operation, for the company as well as for the employee. 

Base the answer on a personalized approach: each employee is unique, and what works for one may be completely inappropriate for another. By taking a personalized approach, employers can address the specific issues that cause each employee's absenteeism.

Develop a true team culture: By fostering a culture of teamwork and collaboration, employers can create a positive work environment that can lead to improved morale and reduced absenteeism.

The paramount importance of a flexible organization

To all these recommendations, we think it is important to add one more, which is particularly relevant today. In order to promote job satisfaction and to fight effectively against absenteeism, it is more than recommended to set up a flexible work organization (hybrid or full remotely telecommuting, 4-day week…). This is a key step in the fight against absenteeism because it corresponds to a strong demand from employees, especially the younger ones who increasingly want to find flexible jobs

Several studies show this. For example, the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) conducted a study. According to this study, employees with access to telecommuting were 42% less likely to be absent from work for personal or family reasons, while employees with access to flexible working hours were 45% less likely to be absent from work for the same reason. 

Another study conducted by the Families and Work Institute found that employees with access to flexible work arrangements were more satisfied with their jobs and had lower stress levels. In addition, employees who had access to telecommuting were more likely to be engaged in their work and more likely to report having a positive work-life balance. The proofs are here and flexibility in work organization can no longer be ignored.

The company must show empathy

Whatever the cause of absenteeism, the company must not treat the employee as an enemy if it is serious about solving the problem. On the contrary, an open and benevolent attitude, attentive listening, and the establishment of open and transparent communication between managers and employees must be favored. This is the key to reducing absenteeism.


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