FIVE Strategies for Reducing Absenteeism

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According to the Integrated Benefits Institute, which represents major U.S. employers and business coalitions, absenteeism costs U.S. companies billions of dollars each year in lost productivity, wages, poor quality of goods/services and excess management time.  Simply put, when staff calls 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 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.  Still though, there are certain things that you can do to make sure that employee absence doesn’t spiral out of control and become a real problem for the business. Here, we’re going to outline some proven strategies to 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 procedures, if they don’t even exist! A good policy will outline the different absence policies, arrangements for calling in an absence, qualifying for medical absences, 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.

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 company. 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 your policy. Even when schedules are busy, make sure that these conversations are always documented. Proper documentation 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 work. They may want to attend a school event, go see their favorite band, or have to take care of an ill family member . 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 an 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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