How to reduce absenteeism at your workplace: 13 proven tips

by Andy Nguyen
reduce absenteeism at workplace

Employee absenteeism refers to employees being frequently absent from work without any justified reason or prior discussion with their manager. It doesn’t count paid time off or justified absences like maternity leave. 

Excessive absenteeism can hurt your company’s bottom line and result in lost productivity, time, and poor employee morale. 

To ensure your employees follow the proper procedures and inform beforehand, you need to clearly understand the main causes of absenteeism. This will help you form a reasonable employee attendance policy and take the right steps to reduce absenteeism. 

Keep reading to find out our 13 tips on how to reduce absenteeism at the workplace. 

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13 reliable tips on how to reduce absenteeism at workplace

Any unscheduled failure to report to work is termed employee absenteeism, and this usually doesn’t include planned leaves. 

Excessive absenteeism can have negative effects on the employer, the employee, and their team. Here are some ways companies and in-attendance team members may suffer from employee absenteeism: 

  • Reduced productivity. 
  • Increased labor costs, especially if you have to hire temporary workers frequently. 
  • Lack of quality control. 
  • Poor customer service due to understaffing. 
  • Employee burnout from taking on the workload of absent employees. 
  • Poor team morale if employees are constantly overworking without any acknowledgment or reward. 

Similarly, the absent employee may witness a pay reduction, higher stress levels due to a need to “catch up,” and, in the case of continued unjustified absences, dismissal from work. 

A certain amount of absenteeism is understandable, like taking a sick day.

However, if this becomes a pattern, the employee’s frequent absence might point to deeper issues at play. 

Here is our detailed article covering 5 surprising reasons why attendance is important at work.

So let’s find out how you can tackle the problem of absenteeism using 13 tips:

1. Understand the causes of employee absenteeism 

Understanding the most common causes of absenteeism can help you create effective attendance policies and provide targeted support. Some of these causes include: 

A) High stress and burnout 

Stress is a common reason for employee absence. This stress may be work-related or due to personal issues. 

Excessive, unresolved stress can lead to chronic mental and physical exhaustion, also called burnout. It can also trigger mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.

All of this can negatively impact your employees’ personal and professional lives, increasing unscheduled absenteeism. 

B) Workplace bullying

While workplace conflict is inevitable, it can turn toxic when it’s persistent. 

If this happens, the employee may prefer to stay at home to avoid their coworkers. Additionally, if they feel you’re ignoring the bullying, this could lead to feelings of isolation and anxiety. 

C) Low morale 

If employees feel unappreciated, undervalued, or taken for granted, it can create feelings of resentment. As a result, employees may feel disengaged from the workplace and eventually quit

D) Care responsibilities 

Some employees may be responsible for other family members, such as caring for an elder or a child. 

In this situation, the employee may need to miss work to take their dependents to doctor appointments or rush home due to an emergency in the middle of the workday.  

However, flexible scheduling can help employees juggle different responsibilities and maintain a healthier work-life balance.  

E) Physical, emotional, and mental health issues 

Employees with chronic health conditions, physical or otherwise, often have a high absenteeism rate

While you can take care of your physical surroundings, like providing sanitation facilities, especially during flu season, mental health issues require more understanding and flexibility. 

Allowing employees to take personal days off can help them feel more comfortable in the workplace as they don’t feel the pressure to make up an excuse or disclose sensitive information. 

F) Bereavement 

Losing a loved one is extremely traumatizing. 

During this difficult period, you can help employees by giving them bereavement leaves to grieve and take care of important legal matters. 

2. Create a clear attendance policy 

As a valuable resource for the company’s HR (Human Resources) department, employees, and managers, an attendance (or absenteeism) policy should be straightforward and easy to follow.

Your absenteeism policy should clarify:

  • The number of leaves employees can take in a month or year. 
  • The proper protocol to apply for leaves. 
  • How to record absences. 
  • What counts as “excessive absence.” 
  • What constitutes tardiness (e.g., 30 minutes late). 

If your employees work remotely and across different time zones, your policy should specify how employee attendance will be recorded and calculated. For instance, you may choose to use an absence tracking tool that records when an employee signs in, if they work the minimum hours, and when they’re absent. 

Additionally, it needs to outline any disciplinary action supervisors/managers can take if employees are frequently absent or tardy. 

You should also discuss the policy with new hires during onboarding and inform employees of any changes as soon as possible. This is especially important as it informs employees of what’s expected and the repercussions of continued unexcused absence. 

You can take this opportunity to outline flexible work options, if available, and your policies for medical leave, maternity leave, sick pay, etc.

Learn how to draft an effective attendance policy for your organization.  

3. Encourage employee engagement

A great way to reduce unplanned absenteeism and increase employee retention is by implementing strategies to make your staff more committed to the workplace. 

You can start by streamlining communication between managers and employees. 

This could mean expressly outlining both sides’ expectations and keeping an open-door policy regarding complaints, improvements, and inquiries. 

Establishing and following specific communication norms can help employees feel more connected to your company and fellow team members. This goes double for a remote workforce where social isolation can prove detrimental to employees’ mental health. 

Another way to combat employee disengagement is by offering continuous training programs and coaching opportunities. These can help employees improve existing skill sets and learn new ones while participating more in the workplace. 

Similarly, managers and supervisors can create a constructive environment by recognizing employees’ hard work, dedication, and proactiveness. 

When all these initiatives run simultaneously, employees feel more engaged and satisfied in the workplace, leading to higher revenue growth

4. Foster a positive work environment 

If employees aren’t excited about their work, don’t feel a sense of belonging with their coworkers, or even have workplace friends, it could contribute to absenteeism. 

You can address this by fostering a team mentality through: 

All these tips are applicable for remote teams as well, with slight adjustments. Proximity is not a requirement, and geography isn’t a barrier. 

Introducing opportunities for employees to engage with each other will help them feel included and improve employee satisfaction. 

You can also create a welcoming work environment by encouraging employees to bring in personal knickknacks and allowing them to decorate their workspace. 

For instance, having potted plants around the office has been proven to boost creativity, productivity, and overall self-esteem

Creating a space where employees want to spend their time can help reduce your unscheduled absence rates. 

5. Improve employee well-being 

Illness, stress, anxiety, and burnout can lower immune system response, making employees susceptible to infections and long-term sickness absence. 

However, you can try to reduce the effects of these health issues by implementing workplace wellness programs

A wellness program can:

  • Inform employees about stress management strategies.
  • Provide much-needed breaks during the workday.
  • Offer access to important resources. 

As a result, they can lower healthcare costs and reduce stress while improving morale and productivity

You can also preemptively address concerns by starting initiatives like offering annual flu shots or hosting mental health workshops. 

Find out which wellness challenges you can implement today! 

6. Provide leaves and paid time off 

These days, employees expect companies to help them maintain a healthy work-life balance. This includes receiving ample paid time off (PTO).  

Many companies today offer unlimited paid leave. It lets employees take time off when needed and reduces the harmful effects of presenteeism

All of this contributes to employees feeling more engaged and loyal to the workplace, which boosts productivity

Reasonable PTO policies empower employees by transparently showing them how many leaves are available. As a result, they’re more likely to follow the proper procedures outlined in your absenteeism policy and inform you about time off in advance. 

These scheduled absences can help you plan ahead, like hiring a freelancer or temporary worker for a few days. 

7. Offer flexible work options 

Numerous studies have shown that flexible and remote work options improve employee performance, productivity, and satisfaction. 

Flexible work allows employees to manage their own time. So, employees can take breaks without fear of judgment, go for a walk, run errands, take a nap, and be there with their loved ones. 

It’s a fantastic way for employees to maintain a worklife balance that works for them. For instance, if an employee isn’t a morning person, a flexible work schedule lets them start work when they’re most productive. 

As a result, you reduce the overall absenteeism rate without compromising your employees’ health and well-being. 

8. Check-in regularly 

Chronic absenteeism without a justified reason can be cause for concern. 

Checking in regularly with employees at all levels can help you understand their state of mind. It can also allow you to offer flexible work schedules or a reduced workload for a specific period. 

You can use these check-ins to gauge employee satisfaction levels and determine whether you need to change any work policies. 

9. Utilize absence management tools 

Absence tracking tools allow you to stay updated about employee absences and attendance in real-time. 

They can also provide relevant data on absenteeism trends and whether certain policies are effective. You can use this data to implement changes in your absenteeism policy. 

It can also:

  • Help employees plan their leaves. 
  • Let supervisors document late arrivals and last-minute absences. 
  • Keep the HR professionals in the loop for authorized absences.

Time Doctor, a powerful employee management tool, helps you check employee attendance across the company. 

Its productivity reports show which employees were absent, present, late, or partially absent on any date or a specified date range. This allows you to maintain a complete record of an employee’s attendance and address unplanned absences if they start to become a pattern. 

Read more about Time Doctor’s features here. 

10. Address no-shows immediately

While it’s impossible to eliminate workplace absenteeism, you can take certain steps to address it. 

For instance, if an employee doesn’t turn up for work, you should try contacting them through other means. Sometimes, especially during an emergency or if the employee is unwell, they might be unable to inform about their absence on time.  

However, if they don’t respond, you should ideally inquire about what happened once they return to work. 

You can also hold a return-to-work interview to help them get back into the swing of things. 

Doing this will send a message that their actions are noticed and that management is genuinely concerned about employee wellbeing. 

11. Introduce return-to-work interviews

Many companies reserve a return-to-work interview after long absences, such as after an employee has been on maternity or extended sick leave. 

But, employees benefit from these interviews even after being away for a couple of days. 

Similar to the onboarding process, it helps employees get into the right mindset and allows you to: 

  • Assess if they’re ready for work. If yes, what workload they should start with.
  • Make any necessary arrangements to ease their return. For example, a new parent might need flexible work hours to accommodate their childcare needs. 

For short absences, it could be a quick chat over coffee.

12. Reward good attendance 

Your company can reward employees with good attendance records. 

While this incentive may increase employee attendance, you shouldn’t penalize employees for justified or planned absenteeism. 

For instance, if an employee takes a planned and approved vacation, that shouldn’t disqualify them just because they weren’t present at work. 

In fact, you can use that as an example of good and timely communication. 

By incentivizing employees to follow the policy, you can curb excessive absence and boost employee morale. 

13. Consider special circumstances

If an employee is dealing with mental health problems, trauma, or workplace bullying, these may be impacting multiple spheres in their lives. 

US employers, especially, can implement an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) to address common employee well-being concerns, such as: 

  • Finding childcare or elder care services. 
  • Adoption assistance. 
  • Legal and financial issues. 
  • Marital or family problems. 
  • Mental health counseling. 
  • Workplace conflicts. 

As a result, EAPs can help:

  • Reduce staff absenteeism.
  • Drive down healthcare costs.
  • Reduce employee turnover.
  • Address critical safety issues. 
  • Increase employee engagement.

Similarly, sometimes an employee may have a pattern to their absenteeism. 

For instance, maybe you notice an employee leaves work early on Wednesdays. After asking them, you find out their daycare schedule has shifted, making it harder to find a babysitter on Wednesdays. 

In this case, you can let the employee leave early on Wednesday and make up for lost time on other days. 

Doing so will help you retain good employees and boost morale. 

Wrapping up 

Reducing absenteeism in the workplace might seem complicated, but it isn’t. 

You can lower the unplanned absence rate by introducing health initiatives, optimizing communication flows, and creating a reasonable attendance policy.

However, every employee might require slightly different arrangements. 

That’s why you must ensure your policy remains flexible enough to accommodate everyone and help them achieve their professional goals.

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