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Featured blog post banner of What Is Employee Absenteeism

What Is Employee Absenteeism? What Causes It and How To Deal With It?

Workers are humans, and as HR managers, it is crucial to understand that some level of absenteeism in the workforce is inevitable. Falling ill, injuries, personal business, or occasional requirement to look after a family member, there can be several instances when an employee has to take off.

When unscheduled absences become a norm and impact the company’s productivity, HR managers must take action.

While a flexible schedule is a great way to retain employees and attract talent, rampant absenteeism can negatively impact workforce morale and create a bottleneck for the bottom line. This is why leading organizations proactively discuss strategies to deal with employee absenteeism.

This article will discuss everything related to employee absenteeism and how to manage absenteeism effectively.

What is employee absenteeism?

In simple terms, employee absenteeism is the frequent lack of attendance without reasonable cause or proper notification. Absenteeism is a repeated behavior and doesn’t include occasional no-call, no-show, or absences in instances that cannot be controlled like illness, sudden climate change, broken car, etc.

For an organization, it is essential to have measures in place to guide HR managers in dealing with absenteeism at work. Employee absenteeism is on the rise, and ever since the pandemic, it is becoming even more challenging for companies to take control of the situation when more people are calling in sick when they aren’t.

In the long term, employee absenteeism can affect a company’s productivity. There are associated financial risks, too, as absenteeism-linked productivity losses cost U.S. companies $225.8 billion annuallyHR professionals must be capable of making decisions on how to deal with excessive absenteeism in the workplace to avoid such losses.

Who is affected by employee absenteeism?

The answer might seem straightforward. Companies are at the most loss if they cannot control absenteeism, but they are not the only ones at a loss. While the costs to the company are pretty high, absenteeism affects employees too. It paves the way for poor work ethics that sets a dangerous precedent for new employees to follow.

Employees who are regular with their attendance feel discouraged to continue to be so as they witness absenteeism. Speaking of monetary losses, according to the publication titled Absenteeism: The Bottom-Line Killer, Unscheduled absenteeism is a chronic problem for U.S. employers, conservatively costing
$3,600 per hourly employee per year, and $2,650 per salaried employee per year.

Apart from these direct losses, there are indirect costs such as wages paid to absent employees, poor quality of goods/services resulting from understaffing, and administrative expenses of managing absenteeism.

5 Reasons for employee absenteeism

We understand that employee absenteeism is too high of a risk of being left unattended. Still, HR professionals must know what factors result in absenteeism to nip the evil in the bud.

1. Low employee engagement

No company can have a dedicated workforce without ensuring employee engagement in the work culture. If there is a lack of activities to bring employees closer to their workplace, they will feel disengaged at work. It is essential for employee engagement and productivity that they feel connected to the workplace.

When your workplace lacks employee engagement, the chances of absenteeism are high.

2. Time theft can also be considered absenteeism

Company productivity is affected when employees are absent without informing, but time theft also results in the same losses for the company. When employees take unnecessarily long breaks, are frequently late to work, or leave early, they are essentially committing absenteeism.

It is a practice that raises a question for the HR manager about the dedication and commitment of the employees. If unchecked, time theft can hurt the sentiments and morale of honest employees, further worsening the situation.

3. Lack of a flexible working

Since the pandemic, employees are more discerning of the work-life balance and seek opportunities that allow them to focus on both. If a company has too rigid shifts leaving little scope for flexibility, it can be a significant reason for employee absenteeism. 

Lack of flexibility can be one of the biggest reasons employees miss work without prior notice.

4. Workplace burnout

Burnout leads to ill-performance among employees. When there are no measures to avoid rigorous and unscheduled working conditions, employees face burnout that results in unscheduled absences. Employees must get breaks to rejuvenate. If a company overexposes its workforce to work, it can lead to the degradation of their interest in work.

5. Substance abuse and stress

An issue that is widely known but less discussed, substance abuse among employees, can be a real problem. Employees succumb to substance abuse in some industries to relieve work stress and rejuvenate. Alcoholism is one typical example of substance abuse among employees.

However, such abuse is detrimental to the employees’ physical and mental health. It degrades their motor functions and thinking ability, leaving them unfit for performing their duties.

8 Ways to deal with employee absenteeism

Now that we know the main reasons let’s discuss how to deal with staff absenteeism.

1. Create an employee attendance policy

Employee attendance policy helps the company communicate what is expected of the employees for attendance. This policy is a document that clearly states what is considered absenteeism and how will be the consequences of unauthorised absence.

Employees must be aware of what the company expects from them to stick with the rules.

2. Take employee opinions

Companies can understand how the workforce thinks and feels through employee opinions and surveys. The insights gained through surveys can help tackle the question- of how to deal with absenteeism in the workplace. Ask employees about commuting to work, schedule, personal issues, job satisfaction, etc.

3. Adopt a flexible work schedule

As we mentioned above, that lack of flexibility can disengage workers. Adopt a flexible work schedule to allow workers to find a work-life balance and have more time for themselves and their loved ones.

4. Do employee engagement programs

Ideally, the workplace should not only be about work but should provide opportunities for employees to bond and engage on a personal level. Employee engagement programs are excellent at bridging the gap between employees and their employers. Such programs make employees feel acknowledged and appreciated for their work.

5. Start employee wellness programs

Wellness programs can help address health issues that employees face due to work. Such wellness programs fit within an employee’s regular work schedule. When you start a wellness program in the workplace, workers are encouraged to stay fit and healthy, ultimately providing you with a solution to how to deal with employee absenteeism.

6. Give rewards or incentives to employees

If unscheduled absences must be punished, then you must incentivize an excellent attendance record, and punctual employees must be rewarded. It will keep their morale high and let others know that their presence in the workplace will be highly appreciated.

7. Provide one to two weeks of paid time off

The work schedule must not bound employees; that’s why flexibility is a must. However, it is vital to provide paid time off to employees to let them have time for themselves and family. Paid time off is an excellent way to reduce employee absenteeism.

8. Keep track of employee absences

HR managers can take steps and decide how to handle employee absenteeism only when they know the severity of the situation. It is essential to track employee absences properly to make the right decisions. For this, the Truein face recognition system can be highly effective.

An AI-based cloud attendance and leave management system, Truein comes with in-built features to help managers and supervisors keep track of employees. As it is GPS based and can be deployed with an app on a worker’s phone, it is much easier to keep track of employee attendance.

How To Discuss Absenteeism With Your Employee

Unplanned Absenteeism can frustrate you as an employer but do not jump the gun and right away question your employee’s professionalism and integrity. Discuss with your employee in a 1 to 1 meeting and get a reasoning from them on the reason behind their unplanned leaves.

Absenteeism can also stem from non work related issues. It is therefore important that you show your employees you care and try finding solutions if it is a genuine non work related issue that may be impacting them personally.

In other scenarios, clearly communicate to employees the company policies and procedures and the importance of adhering to them. Address the issue as soon as you see it. Create a plan with them and discuss the next steps that would occur if their absenteeism continues. Also praise and reward them when you see improvement in your employee attendance.


Employee absenteeism is a real nuisance that requires well-thought strategies to tackle challenges before they consume revenues and nose-dive productivity. We hope this guide will provide you an insight into what is causing unscheduled absences at your workplace and the strategies to deal with employee absenteeism.

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