Employee absences are an issue that few employers know how to deal with; perhaps because it is perceived as a sensitive issue. “Absenteeism is an employee’s intentional or habitual absence from work. While employers expect workers to miss a certain number of workdays each year, excessive absences can equate to decreased productivity and can have a major effect on company finances, morale and other factors,” according to Forbes. So, knowing how to tackle employee absences can transform operations and put you ahead of the competition.
Preventing Chronic Absenteeism
Let’s face it. There is an employee, or maybe a few, you know of who habitually takes advantage of your better judgment. This is the kind of employee that comes down with something on a Friday or a Monday … or frequently schedules a regular physical with their doctor at the most inconvenient time.
Thankfully, there is a smart way to can get around this abuse of privileges in a professional way — without being perceived as a bad boss. Take the following steps to track absences and – more importantly – prevent chronic employee absenteeism:
Create an Attendance Policy
According to TrackSmart.com, “If employees feel that arrival and departure times are flexible, they are not likely to show up at the same time every day. And if the policy for employee attendance, reporting sick days, or requesting leave is unclear or often ignored, employees may have a hard time knowing what you expect of them.” It is hard for employees to follow unclear, non-existent, or lenient directions.
Record and Monitor Absences
If an employee believes that their absences go unrecorded for future reference they’re more likely to believe that they can get away with pulling more than one occasional well day. One tactic that is used by a number of firms is to ask employees complete a self-certification form for both planned and unplanned absences, noting the duration and reason for the absence.
Having a clear attendance policy and records concerning absences will help you spot absenteeism trends. This isn’t just about exposing employees with chronic absences; it also helps diagnose underlying medical conditions. For example, an employee that is frequently absent for the same reason might have a health issue that has gone unchecked.
Offer an On-Site Health Checkups
Having an occupational health advisor on-site, or on call, allows employees deal with lingering health concerns. This will combat issues surrounding employees that may be reluctant to book a doctor appointment during business hours, and address those who book appointments far too often. Having a health advisor can also boost employee morale, because it reflects a concern for their well-being and enables them to pursue health and wellness with more convenience. As a result, health advisors often serve as one of the best absence prevention measures.
Identify Overworked Employees
One major benefit of recording and reviewing employee absences is the ability to spot a significant lack of approved absences. Consider that there will be one or two employees that put too many hours in without taking a break; either from a genuine love of the work or fear of losing their job. For example, in the UK, statutory paid leave is limited to at least 28 days per year. (Source: Health and Safety Executive) While US workers have no statutory right to paid vacation; which means employers are not required by law to provide paid vacation time.
Either way, most companies do offer paid time-off and if you identify employees taking less than their fair share, ask why. Enforce paid time-off where you can. In the long run, workers that don’t rest become overworked and eventually have to take long periods of leave due to mental or physical exhaustion.
Identify Other Causes of Absenteeism
As you know, not everyone who takes sick leave under false pretenses does so because they’re lazy. They could actually dread coming to work due to a poor working relationship with a manager or colleagues. Meanwhile, some employees have been known to distance themselves from a company with values that contradict their own. For example, an environmentalist employee will distance themselves from a company they perceive as wasteful.
The only way to understand the motivations of chronic absenteeism is to conduct a return to work interview following their absence. Meanwhile, make sure an employee can open up if the issue does concern a workplace problem. It is worth inviting a member of HR to attend these meetings, since they are trained to be more approachable and understanding of employee concerns. Once issues are identified, they can be properly dealt with, and chronic absences can be minimized.
Encourage Workplace Well-Being
One of the most effective ways of reducing illness-related absences is to promote healthy and wellness in the workplace. Provide healthier meal alternatives and vending machines. Consider offering subsidized gym memberships and activity-based social events, such as fun-runs or company leagues. Encouraging employees to lead healthier lives will improve their concentration at work and overall well-being, which yields productivity and reduced absences. It’s a win-win investment.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Hazel Deller is a business writer for Love Energy Savings, a leading business energy price comparison website who help business owners not only improve their profits through savings, but also save valuable time in the process of comparing and switching suppliers. Connect with @LoveEnergySavin on Twitter.
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