Six Strategies for Reducing Absenteeism

  • On July 8, 2016

absenteeism blogThe Integrated Benefits Institute, which represents major U.S. employers and business coalitions, says poor health costs the U.S. economy $576 billion a year, according to new research. Of that amount, 39 percent, or $227 billion is from “lost productivity” from employee absenteeism due to illness or what researchers called “presenteeism,” when employees report to work but illness keeps them from performing at their best. Simply put, your staff are calling in sick, and it’s having a severe impact on your bottom line. If you want to mitigate the impact, it’s time to think about how you can nip the problem in the bud.

Now of course, it’s important to note that managing absenteeism isn’t about trying to ensure that every single employee is always present and correct. Even with the best people management policies and procedures, it’s highly likely that you’ll still have to pick up the phone now and again and be told that an important member of your team can’t make it into the office today. Still though, there are certain things that you can do to make sure that the occasional absence doesn’t spiral out of control, and become a real problem for your business. Here, we’re going to outline some proven strategies that you can put into action.

Clearly outline your expectations
If you don’t already have an absence policy, then this needs to be a key priority. You can’t expect staff to follow your guidelines, if they don’t even exist! A good policy will outline arrangements for calling in sick, identify trigger points that indicate that absence has reached an unacceptable level and will be clearly communicated to all staff. Of course, your policy won’t be worth the paper it’s written on if it doesn’t become part of the way you do business on a daily basis.

Track employee absences
Keeping track of employee absences is the first step to reducing costs. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, only 24 percent of respondents said they think their organization accurately tracks the financial liabilities associated with paid leave. Additionally, only one-third of employers use an integrated system for tracking absences.

Change employee behavior through wellness programs
There’s a strong relationship between wellness programs and productivity, according to a Towers Watson survey done in 2014 of about 900 employers in North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia. The study found that high-effectiveness organizations with wellness initiatives experienced lower unplanned absences (just 3.3 days as opposed to four days).Wellness programs can help employees maintain healthier lifestyles so that they don’t miss work. Take steps to create a culture that focuses on healthy living and give employees the tools they need to keep in optimal health.

Always hold return-to-work discussions
After any period of absence, whether it’s two days or two months, there should be a return-to-work discussion between the individual and the line manager. It’s important that you establish the reason for the absence, assess what you might be able to do to support that person back into work and follow the procedures outlined in your policy. Even when schedules are busy, make sure that these conversations are always marked into the diary. When they’re carried out correctly, then can help you prevent a whole load of potential issues.

Take a flexible approach
It’s important to recognize that staff have a life outside of your business. They may want to attend a parents’ evening, go see their favorite band, or have to take care of serious matters such an ill family member or relative. If they’re forced to choose between missing out and calling in sick, then you aren’t always going to win. Ask yourself whether it would be feasible, from an operational point of view, to add some flexibility into how working schedules are managed. From time to time, could you allow staff to swap shifts, or catch up with their work later in the week? As long as you have firm boundaries in place, this kind of approach could help you to minimize problems.

Reduce office stress
Workplaces are the biggest source of stress according to a 2015 American Psychological Association survey of 1,950 adults in the United States. Not only does stress cause people to miss work, but unplanned absences can create more of it in the office. The Society for Human Resource Management survey discovered that 61 percent of the respondents believed unplanned absences increase workplace stress. The best way to address this problem is to aim to eliminate stress in the workplace. Create an environment where employees feel comfortable talking to managers about stressful situations and provide tools for decreasing them.

 

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