The Main Causes of Employee Absenteeism (and What to Do About It)

Employee absenteeism is a rising problem with many possible causes. The first step is understanding why your employees are avoiding the office.

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main causes for absenteeism and what to do about it

Many small business owners, particularly newer ones, might think that the hardest thing about employees is managing them– but what about managing the absence of them? Employee absence is a growing problem and one that can’t be fixed without first examining the root causes. Separate from legitimate days away from work because of illness, vacation, or other forms of PTO, employee absenteeism is an intentional and habitual absence from work, which often leads to costly temporary solutions, which necessitate overburdening other employees.

There are a few challenges that small businesses face when dealing with absent employees. First, there’s the task of understanding rates of absenteeism in general and the causes of it in your office specifically. Then you’ll need to look at ways to reduce these rates. Ready to dive in? Here’s everything you need to know to understand the main causes and what to do about them.

Why are my employees missing work?

The fact of the matter is that employees miss work and there’s no getting around it. It’s when missing work for legitimate reasons transitions into full-blown absenteeism that small business owners need to take note.

It’s important not to rush to judgment about the absent employee, because the cause might be workplace-related. Bullying and harassment at work can lead to employee absenteeism when the targeted employee calls in sick rather than face the workplace situation.

Illness and caregiving can also be a common cause of absenteeism. If an employee has a child or another family member who requires care, employees who work in situations without adequate PTO and sick leave policies can be forced to miss work in order to meet their familial duties. The same goes for employees with illnesses that require medical appointments, which can’t fit around an employee’s work schedule.

Disengagement and poor employee morale can also take a toll on the office in terms of absenteeism. Employees who feel disrespected by their managers or who feel burned out will often stop showing up to the office.

Lastly, it’s worth noting that an employee who suddenly stops showing up to the office might be in the process of applying to or interviewing with other companies. 

How to identify the reason for employee absenteeism in your office

While the cause or causes of absenteeism can be hard to pinpoint, the only way that you can truly get the information you’re looking for is from your employees. Consider asking about absenteeism around the office during an exit interview when employees are leaving and more inclined to speak candidly.

When attempting to gather information from current employees, consider issuing an anonymous survey or discussing employee absenteeism in one-on-one meetings where employees can feel more comfortable.

Lowering rates of employee absenteeism

The first step of lowering rates of absenteeism is to track your employees’ absences. It’s next to impossible to address absenteeism without being sure of the extent to which it’s happening.

Next, the best way to lower rates of absenteeism is by creating an absence management policy in addition to any other PTO policies you already have in place. Absence management policies are largely defined by instituting a procedure that employees are expected to follow when they need to miss work such as who to inform, by when, and how. Most absence policies also outline which types of absences qualify as PTO and which ones are unpaid.

Overall, though, the best thing you can do to reduce absenteeism is creating a workplace environment that your employees don’t want to be absent from. Generous PTO policies can help as can flexible work policies that allow employees to work from home when they need to. You can also try offering wellness programs as two ways to reduce absenteeism in your office.

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