So and so always gets the flu on Mondays. The number of head colds seems to increase around the holidays, and that one guy in accounting is always getting the stomach bug when it’s fresh powder on the ski slopes. Managers are often aware that sick days are not really sick days, but a survey from the employment law firm CCH confirms that “two-thirds of U.S. workers who call in sick at the last minute do so for reasons other than physical illness.”
When you have employees who are constantly calling in sick or taking another Friday off, it can become a problem. These unscheduled absences can cost businesses over $760,000 in direct payroll costs, not including lost productivity.
So how do you crack down on absenteeism without turning into the office police? CCH Analyst Pamela Wolf provided some insight into this delicate work/life struggle:
“Most people today are juggling the demands of busy personal and professional lives and are trying to do their very best in both places. Organizations need to stop the tug of war with people for their time and become a partner to employees to help them, and the business overall, be more successful.”
So, what can your business do to support your talent while keeping the business thriving?
The short answer is 1) keep them happy and 2) help them keep healthy. This is much easier said than done. The longer answer is following these 7 ways to reduce employee absenteeism (and still avoid turnover).
- Create and Enforce an Attendance Policy: This should be the first step. Clearly address issues on attendance so that employees know the expectations. If you don’t have an attendance policy, it’s very difficult to adhere to it (or abuse it). Also, be sure to have a method for tracking attendance and issuing consequences. A policy without consequences is just wishful thinking.
- Determine the Root Cause: If you have a policy, and still certain employees can’t seem to follow it. Start with a deep dive into trying to understand the root cause. If they aren’t physically ill, what is going on in their personal life? With this information, you can make a better plan to address their needs.
- Offer a Health and Wellbeing Program: Having programs like telemedicine, mental health benefits, and home service offers can help employees be more productive and less likely to be absent. Be sure to include benefits that help family and dependents as well. An employee is more likely to show loyalty to a company that takes care of them.
- Increase Engagement. In a recent study covering 2.7 million employees, Gallup found that companies with the highest employee engagement have reduced absenteeism by 81 percent. It could be that employees aren’t showing up because they aren’t engaged and don’t feel like a valued member of the team.
- Communicate and Trust: Taking a day off is sometimes necessary but opening the lines of communication and reducing the shame of taking a personal day can create a safe place for people to be honest as to why they are absent and shift the entire experience so managers and employees can work together to find a solution.
- Provide Flexible PTO: When employees have ample paid time off, they are less likely to be taking time out of the workweek to cover their personal needs. Flexible PTO encourages employees to let managers know when they need to miss work and allows everyone to plan for the absence rather than leaving it to call in “sick” at the last minute.
- Go Remote: This can solve a lot of problems by embracing the work-from-home model. It allows employees to multitask and be home when they need to while still contributing at work. According to the Harvard Business Review, “employees without access to flexibility are twice as likely to report being dissatisfied at work, and half of the employees say they would leave their company if offered a more flexible alternative.”
Everyone gets the stomach flu, has a kid get sick or needs to take a day off to recharge. But if your employees are constantly calling in for one reason or another, it’s time to get a real picture of what is going on at work. You need to really understand what is contributing to the absenteeism problem. The only way to do that is to talk with your employees. Find out what you can do to create a better environment. Go beyond the surface level and dig a little deeper to discover both the physical and the mental factors holding your employees back from reaching their true potential.