How to Reduce Absenteeism Rates at the Workplace

There is no easy-fix to solving organizational problems. Here are few pointers on how to reduce absenteeism rate in your business.

Work environment
Human capital

Leen Sawalha

VP Product & Growth

Monday, August 04, 2014


Absenteeism is a counterproductive work behavior that is defined as absences that are unscheduled, habitual, and avoidable. They are absences that include sick days, unscheduled days off, and even being late to work.

Needless to say, absenteeism is very costly to organizations, affects its productivity, and decreases the level of morale in the company. So how can you reduce your absenteeism rate and avoid all the consequences associated with it?

These 4 different strategies and tactics will certainly help you reach your goal to lower the absenteeism rate in your business. And don’t forget: the first step always includes doing your homework!

1- Analysing the source and cause of absenteeism

As with any problem, the most important step is performing the necessary analysis. Is absenteeism occurring throughout the entire organization? Or maybe it’s just in a certain department? One measure you can use to identify the source of the problem is the incidence rate; the percentage of full-time employees that report some absence during a reference period.

After you identify the source of the problem, the next obvious step is identifying the cause. Is it a physical cause; such as having a dangerous work environment? Or is it a psychological one; such as having a stressful environment? It could even be a combination of both!

There are many factors that could cause a high absenteeism rate, and a lot of them depend on the industry or the type of work being done. Observe the work environment around you, try to find a common factor, and pinpoint the cause of your absenteeism problem.

Now that you have done the necessary analysis, it is time to attack the problem at hand. How to reduce your absenteeism rate?

2- Effective communication

As simple and as cliché as it sounds, having effective communication with your employees is one of the best ways to reduce absenteeism rate. When you provide your employees with communication channels that allow them to express their needs and preferences, you can ensure that they are satisfied with their work environment.

Employee surveys is one method of communication that you can implement in your organization. When you provide your employees with a quick, easy, and anonymous manner to approach you with their problems, you will be able to serve them better.

The survey, or questionnaire, should include clauses that help you pinpoint the problem. Make sure they are specific, and that they address common workplace problems such as motivation, stressors at work, and conflict.

It is also critical that the employee feels comfortable approaching their manager or HR team with their issues. A common cause of absenteeism is a result of personal problems that employees tend to avoid talking about with their colleagues. Such problems could range from private issues at home to bullying and harassment at work. Encourage your employees to approach you and continuously reassure them that their issues will remain private and confidential.

3- Having good HR policies and practices

It stands to reason that when an organization has effective HR policies and practices, their employees tend to be happier, performing, and productive. When you provide your employees with fair compensation, training and development, ensure they have a safe and healthy work environment, and perform effective performance management and feedback, they will be motivated and committed to the company.

Having policies and procedures that protect employees from harassment, help them resolve conflict, and respect their lawful rights also ensures your employees are more productive. If any area of the organization’s HR functioning is not performing as well as it should be, your employees will feel less motivated and valued. It is critical to ensure that all the HR aspects in your company are performing effectively and efficiently in order to avoid stress and de-motivation that would ultimately lead to an increased absenteeism rate.

4- Personality

As human resources professionals, we have been trained to focus on employees’ knowledge, skills, abilities, and other attributes. However, these “other attributes” tend to be ignored in many organizations. One crucial component of these “other attributes” is personality; a component that is particularly important for the problem of absenteeism.

Many researchers and studies attribute burnout, stress, and low morale as one of the most common causes of absenteeism. And don’t we all know that one person that appears to be more prone to these issues than others? One personality trait that is pertinent to our current topic is an individual’s resistance to stress.

People differ in terms of their levels of nervous tension, emotional maturity, sensitivity, and even energy; just as they differ on other personality characteristics.

Having the ability to identify those individual who are more prone to stress and burnout will allow you the opportunity to attack the problem before it worsens. One way to measure an individual’s resistance to stress is through the use of psychometric assessment tools. These tools will tell you, among other things, your employee’s susceptibility to stressful situations and environments.

It is critical to remember that there is no easy-fix to solving organizational problems. There is never one best-way or a magic cure. While the issue might be the same, the circumstances surrounding it differ greatly from one industry to the next, from one organization to another, and even between departments in the same organization. You can, however, arm yourself with some tools and strategies that could make your life a little easier.

Do your homework, perform the necessary analysis, listen to your employees, and don’t shy away from assessment tools that can provide you with insight you might not otherwise see.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Get more fresh content delivered right to your inbox to help you hire smarter, lead stronger, and grow better.