It is rule No. 1 in the workplace: Employees need to show up to do their jobs. In today’s “do-more-with-less” culture, however, absenteeism is a growing concern for many companies.
It’s not uncommon for organizations to deal with absenteeism rates of 10% or more – putting extra pressure on other employees, slowing productivity and taking a day-by-day bite out of the bottom line.
There are a lot of theories about what drives absenteeism. A sampling:
A lot’s been written about the work ethic (or lack thereof) of Generations X and Y. They just don’t have the same drive to succeed that Baby Boomers brought to the job, some observers say. They’re too self-absorbed.
Others claim that since companies aren’t as loyal to employees as they used to be, workers’ loyalty has eroded, too. People don’t have the bond with employers they had in decades past; missing a workday isn’t a big deal.
Research has shown that stressful working conditions, along with increased pressure to be more productive, push tardiness and absenteeism rates higher.
Along with that, there are stress-related diseases, like heart and depression issues, which also increase work time missed.
Truth is, a combination of forces factor into absenteeism rates. According to recent research, many organizations with absenteeism problems face some or all of the following issues:
- heavy workloads, with long hours and infrequent breaks
- negative social environment between supervisors and workers
- limited worker involvement in everyday decision-making
- inadequate communication throughout the organization
- lack of opportunity for job advancement or promotion
- employees unsure of the company’s future, and
- unpleasant physical surroundings.
Tools of the trade
Here’s the one thing that seems certain: Employees who are engaged and challenged, who feel they’re given the opportunity to do their best and will be recognized and rewarded for it – these are the workers who show up every day.
So good management is key. But it’s likely there will always be a subset of employees who’ll have attendance problems. That’s why smart companies have absenteeism policies that set out strict guidelines about number and frequency of allowed days missed, and the penalties for violating those guidelines.
Some other weapons to use:
- The written word. Writing up an employee before he or she exceeds absenteeism limits can be an effective deterrent. A memo covering the employee’s absence record – along with a detailed explanation of what will happen if the pattern continues – is often sufficient to get the worker back on track.
- Varying pay scales. Some firms offer different rates of pay for those workers with perfect attendance. Employees who work a full week’s schedule are paid one hourly rate; workers with unexcused absences are paid a lower rate.
- Periodic cash drawings. Employers hold a raffle for a small cash prize. Only employees who’ve had perfect attendance are eligible.
- Periodic bonuses and awards. Money talks – and annual, quarterly or monthly attendance awards have proven effective absenteeism-busters for many employers. Small prizes, like gift certificates or movie tickets, also get results.
- The irritating phone call. This seems like the tactic of last resort – not to mention expensive – but some companies actually call chronically absent or tardy employees and remind them to come to work.
The prerecorded calls, made a couple hours before the shift starts, go something like this: “Hello. This is (supervisor’s name). You are continually late, or absent. I’ll keep making this call until the problem is solved. Thank you for your cooperation.”