Are you a company owner, manager, or HR professional with concerns about employees who continually miss work? Are you at a point where you need to take action? If you answered yes to both of these questions, one of the first things you should do is find out why your employees are taking so many days off. Until you know the top reasons for absenteeism, you can’t take steps to rectify the situation. With all that in mind, let’s take a closer look at some of the top reasons for employee absence.
- Minor Illnesses
Minor illnesses have the potential to sneak up on employees when they least expect it. This can include everything from the cold to the flu (and that’s just the start).
Protect against employee absence by helping your employees maintain their health. For example, you can hold health fairs throughout the year to give them access to the testing they need. Or if they suspect an illness, you could take steps to help them get checked.
Some seemingly minor illnesses are much more serious than they appear on the surface. Maybe an employee takes a Lyme disease test with expectations that the result will be negative. However, they soon find that they have this illness and that it’s prohibiting them from working as expected.
- Mental Health (Stress and Anxiety)
You can’t tell if someone is struggling with a mental health issue, so it’s best that you don’t jump to conclusions (either way). Stress, anxiety, depression, and a variety of other mental health concerns can result in time away from the job.
Here’s a statistic from the National Alliance on Mental Illness that will open your eyes: 20.6% of U.S. adults experienced mental illness in 2019 (51.5 million people). This represents 1 in 5 adults.
In other words, if you have 100 employees, roughly 20 of them will suffer from some type of mental illness. That’s a big number.
Just the same as physical illnesses and injuries, mental health is a big reason for employee absence. There are steps you can take to help your employees help themselves:
- Encourage them to take time off if they need to recharge their batteries
- Help them eat healthier and exercise regularly
- Promote a good work/personal life balance
It’s often the small changes that have the biggest impact on your organization. You never know when you’ll make a decision that helps an employee (or employees) overcome a serious mental concern.
- Employee Absence From Burnout
This goes along with point #2, mentioned above. Hard work is a good thing, but constant rumination about workloads, harrowing work schedules, and ever-accumulating deadlines is a fast-track to employee burnout. All employees need to take time away from the office every now and again. In fact, this is so important that you need to encourage employees to do so. Let them know that there’s nothing wrong with taking a break.
Keep your eyes open for signs of employee burnout, such as a decrease in productivity or subpar work. If you suspect this, talk to the employee about what’s happening and make suggestions for them to get back on track.
Note: Some employees will find it difficult to realize that they’re burning out. They can’t see that they’re heading down a dangerous path, so you need to step in and show them the way.
- Personal Life Responsibilities
This is where a good work/personal life balance comes into play. If you work your employees to the bone and don’t allow them to spend time on things they enjoy outside of their jobs — such as their family and hobbies — it’ll eventually backfire.
Not only can personal life responsibilities result in employee absence, but they can also take a toll on their mental health. And when that happens, you can also expect to see an uptick in absences.
Make it clear to your workers that it’s encouraged to have a good work/personal life balance. Taking this one step further, help them achieve this, such as by offering a flexible work schedule.
- Non-Work Related Injuries
There is no shortage of circumstances that can result in a non-work related injury. For example, you could suffer multiple injuries in a motor vehicle accident. Or you could slip and fall in your home, thus requiring medical attention.
As frustrating as it may be, keep in mind that an employee could suffer an injury outside the workplace that results in them missing a day or more of work. It’s important to be both sympathetic and understanding of these circumstances, should they occur.
What Can You Do About It?
It’s one thing to realize that employee absenteeism is a problem. It’s another thing entirely to take steps to curb this concern once and for all.
There is no one size fits all solution, but there are definite steps you can take. Try the following:
- Review your employee handbook and make changes as necessary
- Remind employees of your company’s vacation day, personal day, and sick time off policies
- Encourage employees to care for themselves, both physically and mentally
By taking these steps, you’re doing two things. First off, you show employees that you’re aware that some people are taking too many days off. Secondly, you provide guidance on what they can do to get back on track.
You hope that you never have to do it, but there may come a time when you have to sit down and explain to an employee that their absentee record is a concern. Don’t wait to have this conversation, as you may find that they have a good reason for missing work.
Final Thoughts About Employee Absence
There are times when employees need a day off for one reason or the next, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, what you need to be careful about is employees taking advantage of the system.
If absenteeism is a problem within your company, you’ll soon come to find that it’s having a negative impact on productivity. Subsequently, it can drag down everything from customer service scores to revenue.
By recognizing these common causes of employee absence, you can address them before they escalate to an even bigger issue. And the sooner you take action, the better it can be for you and your business’s bottom line.