If you have ever supervised employees, then you have, at some point, dealt with managing employee attendance issues. Although finding ways to partner with your employees so that they are more successful is incumbent upon all supervisors, you do not need to be held hostage to this frustration. This article equips you with tools to more than combat the issues, but to also address the behaviors that are behind them.
Overcoming Attendance Issues in The Workplace
The following are proven ways to address absenteeism in measured, consistent, and professional ways that do not break the bank, nor monopolize your supervisors’ time. Many of these concepts are utilized in different ways by supervisors in large and small companies alike. Our suggestion is to pluck the best practices from this list that speak to you and employ them in ways that serve your most critical needs.
1. Use Time Tracking Software
This is No. 1 for a reason. We have researched many top-performing time and attendance software options out there and have found many to be excellent partners for small businesses. In addition to a comprehensive vendor list that will assist you in your overall search, we recommend When I Work as a resource for time tracking. When I Work’s time tracking software allows small businesses to lean on their platform for not just time tracking, but vacation and sick time, scheduling, and other facets of employee management as well.
2. Develop a Comprehensive Attendance Policy
A formal policy allows you to set consistent expectations throughout your organization. This sample policy can be used as a guide for your own attendance policy. These rules communicate to your team members what, specifically, the expectation is, and that you intend to enforce these rules fairly and consistently. Once you establish attendance rules for the workplace, share them with the entire company and enforce them consistently.
3. Tie Together Attendance With Performance
Within the policy should be a direct entanglement of attendance and performance. Once we make attendance a performance issue that employees are measured against, then the employee more easily understands what the repercussions are for not complying.
Thus, our strong recommendations for a written policy and a time and attendance software solution for tracking occurrences can help. If you do not record and refer to attendance records, you will have a challenging time enforcing your expectations.
Even if your company allows employees to use time off from a sick or paid time off (PTO) bank, it’s still important to record instances and reasons for absences. At times, these records can be used during performance evaluations, employee coaching sessions and, when necessary, during employment separation, when employees just cannot turn it around.
In addition, family leave laws, intermittent military service, jury duty and, in a growing number of states, bereavement leave are becoming more challenging for employers to manage successfully, which is yet another reason for seeking partnership with a third-party vendor. We also want you to be aware of the fact that the United States Department of Labor (DOL) has recently ruled that employees taking time away for events like a child’s individualized education program (IEP) at their school also qualifies as eligible leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Although we know that it can be challenging to manage through these regulations, the flexibility that it provides employees for work-life balance is a positive. Many employers find that employees who enjoy flexibility want to produce more, or work harder, for their employer in the long run.
4. Consistent Policy Enforcement
Every supervisor must be accountable for their teams’ attendance and overall productivity. Senior management will need to set clear objectives for supervisors who manage personnel so that they know what their role is as the team focuses on overall attendance as a performance issue. Note that ongoing, real-time discussions with employees are the best approach.
Do not wait until a scheduled one-on-one meeting, the annual performance evaluation, or when you get around to it to write them up. Supervisors should take the initiative and nip these matters in the bud whenever possible.
5. Reward Employees for Coming to Work
If you want to create a culture and system that encourages employees to show up for work, find ways to incentivize them. I know what you are thinking, “I already pay them to show up for work.” You can continue believing that a paycheck is all you have to do, while you see your competition develop creative, dynamic programs that delight their employees.
Note that these do not have to be expensive program concepts, you should see how employees respond to free movie tickets or free $50 Visa gift cards and so on. It is almost magical. Develop ways to entice your team members by holding quarterly drawings for prizes.
6. Employ Public Affirmation
Much of the time, you will find that public acknowledgment directed at well-performing employees goes a long way. We dare you to test us on this one. Try acknowledging team members during team meetings who do not have any unapproved absences during the last month or quarter.
7. Schedule Team Training
When possible, holding team training on topics like team communication and equality in the workplace can build trust and loyalty to the company. We would add to this list a training and development workshop that has managing employee attendance and performance-related segments baked within.
This type of training should assist supervisors and team members alike understand what the clear expectations are on this topic and what to do when one needs help with attendance related matters, including when to suggest employee assistance program (EAP) services, which are addressed later in this article.
8. Offer Adequate Time Off
Although this may seem obvious, it is missed by many companies. PTO benefits can help you stem the gap in this area. If you offer ample time away from the workplace, then employees will, more than likely, develop a habit of scheduling their time away as opposed to the unscheduled callouts.
This, of course, allows you to schedule coverage, move project deadlines, balance workloads throughout teams, and so on. Industry-leading PTO policies and benefits will also help you retain and attract top talent in your industry as PTO is one of the most sought after benefits by employees today.
9. Develop a Flexible Work Culture
First, here’s a caveat: not all employers can pull this off. At times your industry type does not allow for flexible scheduling―remote work from home is included. Moreover, the size of your company may be too small to pull this off successfully in the long term. Work with what you have and make the benefit successful. If you can offer flexibility, your millennial employees will love you for it.
Again, one way that small businesses help themselves in this area is to partner with a vendor that specializes in attendance tracking and employee scheduling, especially if you can offer flexible scheduling, and so on. Another resource we like a lot is When I Work. It doesn’t just provide employee scheduling and time tracking software, but also desktop and mobile apps that give you and your team the access they need from anywhere.
10. Offer an EAP
Although commonly overlooked as a cost-effective, easily offered employee benefit, EAPs are terrific tools to allow employees access to third-party, anonymous―for the employee―assistance. Sometimes, employees are experiencing a challenging time in their life and need a little grace.
EAP support services can help by providing a wide range of support services that range from counseling referrals to financial guidance, initial legal counseling, fitness and healthy diet webinars, and more. The idea is that, in many cases, an EAP can provide support through one of their programs. This, in turn, can help the employee deal with personal issues that might be affecting their attendance.
EAP’s are delivered at no cost to employees by stand-alone EAP vendors or providers who are part of a company’s health insurance plan. Services are most commonly provided over the phone, video-based counseling, online chatting, email interactions, and/or face-to-face. Wellworks is one of many vendors that offer comprehensive EAP services.
The Most Common Employee Attendance Challenges
There are many reasons employees show up late for work or call in to notify you of their absence. Employers should remain flexible and reasonable as it relates to the expectations of their employees. Employees should not be managed casually with your workforce. According to When I Work, one in four workers admits to running late at least once each month. It is safe to say that maintaining an informed understanding of managing employee attendance and how to keep a professional expectation throughout your workforce is essential.
Not all absenteeism is preventable. According to a study by CareerBuilder, about one-third of employees who call out sick for the day are genuinely ill. When you add another 27% who call out to visit the doctor, notes CareerBuilder, you have quite a few occurrences that amount to legitimate reasons for being absent. Here are some of the reasons for call outs that we know employers should be on the lookout for.
Sickness or Other Illness
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the annual direct costs, such as hospital and doctor’s office visits, medications, and more of the flu in the US are an estimated $4.6 billion. In the US, the flu causes employees to miss approximately 17 million workdays, at an estimated $7 billion a year in sick days and lost productivity overall.
Of course, the reasons range far and wide as to why people call in legitimately sick. The flu is one of the most common reasons for calling in sick. According to Reader’s Digest, here are some other common medical-related reasons:
- Flu and/or the common cold
- Back pain
- Injury caused by accident
- Elective surgery
Children Are Sick
Although we adults can do everything in our power not to get sick, such as washing hands and staying away from others who are sick, our children are more of a wildcard in this area. When coupled with family leave laws, such as the FMLA and many states that have their own family leave laws, this can be both a legitimate reason for calling out as well as a challenge to manage for the company.
Disenchantment With the Job
Although the purpose of this article is not to defend reasons for callouts or absenteeism issues overall, some factors play into why employees call out often. If your employees aren’t happy with their work environment, which may range from the office they sit in to their supervisor, it’s more likely they will call out frequently.
Globally speaking, according to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace study, only 15% of employees are engaged in the workplace. This leaves a large number of employees who claim they are not engaged and many who are unmotivated.
Seeking Other Employment
Many times, employees spend time during the workday looking for another job. When that becomes too difficult to do, or when employees are actively interviewing for other opportunities, time off work is usually taken and, much of the time, it’s at the last minute.
The truth is, not all callouts are legitimate. The aforementioned CareerBuilder poll also notes that 28% who call in “do not feel like going to work” and make up a story for their absence. Statistically, right behind that reason, at 24%, is “just needing to relax.”
Industry-specific Absenteeism Realities
The industry you are in also can contribute to the nature and number of callouts. For example, if you are in the foodservice industry, you may have policies that prevent ill employees from reporting to the workplace. Likewise, construction industry jobs that are physically demanding and outdoors often result in fatigue and, at times, disenchanted workers who choose to take a day off.
The retail industry also has many explanations of why absenteeism is such an ongoing challenge. Within retail, there are many first-time workers in entry-level jobs with heavy daily interaction with customers that can wear down employees quickly. One can see that within this arena, there are many industry-specific concerns that employers need to remain mindful of when addressing employee absenteeism concerns.
Costs of Employee Absenteeism
When it comes down to it, as it relates to “direct costs,” what we are truly defending against are things, such as drops in productivity, lost sales, caring for our greatest asset (employees), which is why we care so much about employee absenteeism. According to the CDC and reported by Kaiser Permanente, productivity losses linked to absences within the US have cost employers $225.8 billion annually, or $1,685 per employee, annually.
There are straightforward methodologies in managing employee attendance challenges. Employee engagement is a significant tool that all small business managers need to utilize actively and continuously.
Smaller businesses feel the effect of absenteeism even more and in multiple ways. Much of the time, there are no “back-up” employees who can jump into the job that the absent employee has vacated. Worse still, in small businesses, when an employee calls out, at times, your entire department is missing for the day.
There are also high “indirect costs” that are concerning as well. Serious absenteeism rates also impact company morale. When employees see others calling out routinely, have to cover for others’ shifts, and are working hard to get ahead, morale will inevitably be affected. This can further spill over to a developing lack of confidence in leadership, if nothing is done about ongoing concerns, including:
- Reduced productivity due to those calling out as well as employees who see their colleagues’ repeated behaviors but feel that nothing is being done by leadership to correct the behavior
- Reduced morale due to employees having to cover or fill in for their missing colleagues, meaning that they are commonly asked to do extra work
- Reduced product quality and production quantity or, if you are in a service industry, reduced services due to understaffed teams and delayed customer support for current and potential customers
- Safety issues also increase when understaffing is an ongoing issue as extended work shifts are often required, and the speed in which employees are asked to work often increases to meet customer demand
- Employee attrition inevitably increases when ongoing absenteeism is not properly addressed, and these are the highest, most expensive hidden costs to absenteeism issues in the workplace
Although absenteeism creates a cumbersome workplace matter to contend with, it can be avoided. You can develop a program that addresses these matters adequately and that your employees will respond to. Review the red flags and solutions offered throughout this article and select a vendor, if you desire to do so, that you can lean on to help track and manage employee attendance and offer scheduling resources for your team.