Absenteeism - There's More to it than Meets the Eye

There can be more than meets the eye when it comes to absenteeism. Team members may stay away due to uncaring supervisors or unsatisfactory working conditions. There are a number of ways to address the problem to improve morale and the efficiency of the workplace.

An absence from the workplace refers to time a team member is not on the job during scheduled working hours, except for a granted leave of absence or holiday time. 

There can be more than meets the eye when it comes to absenteeism. Team members may stay away due to uncaring supervisors or unsatisfactory working conditions. There are a number of ways to address the problem to improve morale and the efficiency of the workplace.

An absence from the workplace refers to time a team member is not on the job during scheduled working hours, except for a granted leave of absence or holiday time.

Normally, the rate of absenteeism is calculated by dividing the number of working days lost through absence in any given period by the total number of available working days in that same period, as follows:

Absenteeism Rate = Number of lost working days due to absence /(Number of team members) x (Number of Workdays) x 100.

For Example:

a. Average number of employees in work force = 100
b. Number of available workdays during period = 20
c. Total number of available workdays (a x b) = 2,000
d. Total number lost days due to absences in the period= 93
e. Absenteeism percent:(d [divided by] c) x 100 = 4.65 percent

Since absenteeism is a major barometer of employee morale, absenteeism above five percent has to be considered as very serious (across most industries, three percent is considered standard).

Left unchecked, high absenteeism can rapidly develop into serious business problems, including morale issues and high turnover.

Maybe even worse than absenteeism, it is obvious that people such as malingerers and those unwilling to play their part in the workplace can also have a decidedly negative impact.

Such team members need individual attention from frontline supervisors and management.

Indeed, as prevention is better than cure, where such a problem occurs, it is always important to review recruitment procedures to identify how such individuals came to be employed in the first place.

For any business owner or manager, to cure excessive absenteeism, it is essential to find and then eliminate the causes of discontent among team members.

If they find their supervisor or job unpleasant - really unpleasant - they look for legitimate excuses to stay home, and find them with things such as upset stomachs or splitting headaches.

Any effective absentee control program has to locate the causes of discontent and modify those causes or eliminate them entirely. In other words, if we deal with the real reasons team members stay home, it can become unnecessary for them to stay away.

Any investigation into absenteeism needs to look at the real reasons for it.

Sometimes team members call in sick when they really do not want to go to work. They would not call you up and say, “I’m not coming in today because my supervisor abuses me.”

Or, “I’m not coming in today because my chair is uncomfortable.” Or, “I’m not coming in today because the bathrooms are so filthy, it makes me sick to walk into them.”

There are a few essential questions to consider at the outset if you want to make a measurable improvement to your absenteeism figures.

Why is your present absenteeism policy ineffective?

Where and when is excessive absenteeism occurring? In many cases, under- trained supervisors could be a contributing factor.

What are the real causes for absences?

It is commonly expected that low pay, poor benefits, and high workloads will be the major causes.

However, in numerous employee surveys, absenteeism generally has been identified as a symptom of low job satisfaction, sub-standard working conditions, and consistent negative and unfair treatment received by first-line supervisors.

How much formal training have your supervisors received on absenteeism containment and reduction? If your answer is none or very little, maybe you have found the solution.

As with every other element within your organization, you cannot ask a person to do a job he or she has never been trained to do.

Many human resources specialists have found that repetitive, boring jobs coupled with uncaring supervisors and/or physically unpleasant workplaces are likely to lead workers to make up excuses for not coming to work.

If your team members perceive that your company is indifferent to their needs, they are less likely to be motivated, or even to clock on at all.

One way to determine the causes of absenteeism is to question your supervisors about excessive absenteeism, including what causes it and how to reduce it.

Of course, if your supervisors have made no efforts to get to know the team members in their respective departments, they may not be able to provide reasons.

However, just the act of questioning may get the ball rolling and signal to your supervisors that their involvement is important.

Once a manager finds the real reasons for absenteeism, there is another important step. Through open communication, you need to change the team member’s way of reacting and responding to discontent.

Other problems will no doubt arise in the future. If the way of responding has not been reviewed, then the same cycle is likely to start all over again.

So often absenteeism problems can be sheeted back to the supervisor level and to unsatisfactory working conditions. Without improvement in these areas, you can expect your high rate of absenteeism to continue.

 
Copyright 2002, RAN ONE Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.