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Employee absenteeism can have a profound impact on a company. Canadian employees miss, on average, 10 days of work per year. This costs companies approximately $16 billion in lost productivity.

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Despite this, many managers feel ill-equipped to deal with absenteeism in a meaningful way. Some companies don’t even track absenteeism, allowing the problem to go unnoticed and uncorrected.

These tips can help you both identify and address absenteeism in your workplace. By addressing patterns of behaviour, you can help reduce the impact employee absences have on your organization.


Track Absenteeism and Determine Patterns

The first thing you should do is make sure you have the right technology in place. It’s very difficult to address chronic absenteeism if you’re not sure it’s even taking place. You might notice a particular employee seems to be away a lot, but without the numbers to back it up, you might be acting on a hunch rather than concrete facts.

HR technology like a human resource information system can help collect the data you need. Track employees’ productivity, schedules, and even their overtime using the HRIS.

Once you’ve collected the data, you can analyze it and identify patterns.


Understand the Underlying Causes of Absenteeism

Once you’ve determined a pattern in an employee’s behaviour, you need to understand why this is occurring.

Some employees get sick often. Older employees may have health conditions that flare up. They may have doctors’ appointments to attend. Younger employees may have young children who are often ill.

The usual culprit of frequent employee absenteeism, however often has more to do with stress and motivation. An employee who is stressed may feel run down more frequently. Someone who isn’t motivated may call in frequently to avoid the office.


Have a Clear Policy in Place

Before you can address employee absenteeism, be sure you have a clear policy in place about how to handle sick days. You should ask for your employees to call you on the first day of their illness. After two or three days, you may want to require a doctor’s note.

You might also write into your policy provisions that allow you to address cases of excessive absenteeism. This gives you the means to discuss the behaviour with the employee after so many absences or if they don’t follow company protocol.


Discuss and Find Solutions

As mentioned above, stress and lack of motivation are two common causes of employee absenteeism. Punishing employees or threatening them for absenteeism will likely serve to further demotivate them or increase their stress load.

Instead, aim to discuss the behaviour with the employee. Express concern, and ask the employee to help you find a solution. Is there a way to reduce their stress in the workplace? What can be done to help them feel more motivated?

Remember that some employee absences are unavoidable. Someone who isn’t usually absent may have a rash of colds or other illnesses. Be sure to take a look at the longer track record if you can.


Offer More Flexibility

To help address absenteeism and increase productivity, offer more flexibility. Allow employees to work remotely or from home. If they have to stay home with a sick child, for example, they may still be able to get some work done.

Flexibility can also help alleviate stress and increase motivation. In fact, many workers feel they’re more productive from home.

There are many ways to address absenteeism in your organization. These tips will help you get started.


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Michael Noronha

Michael Noronha

Michael Noronha is a client success associate with the JungoHR team. With three years of experience in human resources and four years of experience in customer service, Michael has an array of expertise in various areas of the HR field. His industry knowledge spans from retail, beverage and food, air cargo, IT consulting, benefits insurance, and financial services. A certified human resources professional with a Human Resources Management Certificate from Sheridan College, and an Hons. BA from the University of Toronto, Michael's aim is always "continuous improvement." He strives to enhance the human aspect of human resources through all stakeholder interactions. Michael also has a love for sports and is an avid food blogger in his spare time.