Feeling lonely as you look around your independent business and see empty workstations where your absent employees or coworkers should be? While people missing work is an age-old problem, some studies suggest skipping work is becoming ever more frequent. Caron Beesley on the the SBA.gov blog offers some solutions to absenteeism.
Employees are the lifeblood of a small business but they are also human and need time off to deal with sickness, manage family needs, and fulfill civic commitments like jury duty.
Personal time off is essential, but what happens when it becomes a problem? Persistent absenteeism (habitual and intentional time off) is a chronic problem for U.S. employees costing $3,600 per hourly employee per year, and $2,650 per salaried employee per year (source).
Not only does absenteeism effect your bottom line, it increases everyone’s workload leading to poor quality output and a sour atmosphere all round!
Absences occur for many reasons – burnout, stress, bullying, low morale, job hunting, etc. There’s also a generational element when it comes to absenteeism. Research suggests that millennials are more likely to skip a day when they feel anxious, whereas as baby boomers value showing up for work, even when they are under the weather.
Whatever form absenteeism takes, it’s bad for business. But here are seven ways to resolve persistent absenteeism:
1. Try to Identify the Root Cause
There’s often a good reason behind that call you just got from an absent employee excusing themselves from work and your gut instinct can guide you on this one. However, if you are noticing an excessive pattern and finding it hard to take your employee’s word for it, then it’s time to take action. If an employee is just not bothering to show up or giving you advance notice, then an intervention is essential. Start keeping a paper trail and records of absences.
2. Give Employees an Opportunity to Explain Themselves
The first thing you can do is give employees an opportunity to explain themselves. When they return to work, have a one-on-one discussion about their absence and express your concern. This is not a disciplinary discussion, but more of a fact-finding mission. Your goal is to understand what’s happening and try to solve the issue. For example, if stress is a factor, then you may need to discuss strategies that can help, such as shifting workloads, reducing responsibilities, etc.
Very often, employees are pleased that they have been given an opportunity to air their problems or grievances. But be warned, you may learn things that you don’t want to hear, particularly if it turns out that your management style is the problem. Try to remain objective during the discussion and use it as a platform to change things.
3. Put a Performance Improvement Plan in Place
If the tactic above doesn’t work, then you need to put a performance review plan in place that sets specific goals for improvement, attendance being one of them. Put the plan in writing and clearly explain the time frame of the plan and the consequences of not fulfilling its requirements.
4. Develop and Communicate a Clear Leave Policy
A written policy won’t stop absenteeism, but it will help you deal with it more effectively. It will also demonstrate to all employees that you don’t tolerate absenteeism. Use the document to clearly explain paid and unpaid leave policies and the consequences of unexcused absences. If you have a company newsletter or intranet, use these to promote your policy.
Note that the law doesn’t require you to provide common leave benefits, but it does require employers to provide leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Be sure you know what the law is. Read more about the FMLA leave entitlement qualifying medical events in SBA’s Employee Benefits Guide (scroll down to “Leave Benefits”).
5. Review your Management Style
It’s hard to acknowledge, but one of the more common reasons for employee dissatisfaction is management style. Could your style be encouraging employees to harbor grudges or lose morale? Step back and assess what you can do differently. Is your open door policy really that open? Do employees really feel valued? Plan on setting side more management time for your team, discuss their professional goals, and share your vision for the continued growth of your business and their role in it. For more inspiration read: Top Tips to Lead and Empower Employees.