7 Proven Ways to Reduce Absenteeism in the Workplace

15 November 2021
Top view of a person working

Absenteeism is bad for business. The unplanned loss of staff, often for long periods, can have negative knock-on results for the bottom line and operational efficiency of your business:

  • Wage/sick pay costs.
  • Lower productivity.
  • Having to arrange replacement cover.
  • Admin headaches and costs.
  • Impact on staff morale.

As we explored in our article, “Workplace Absenteeism and Why You Need Absence Management Software”, investing in good absence management software is an essential way of getting on top of absenteeism, and improving attendance levels.

But even the best absence management solution can only do so much. Employers must find their own ways of supporting their staff through difficulties, making their workplace a great place to work, and only using disciplinary procedures as a last resort.

Here are 7 ways to help reduce absenteeism in your workplace:

1. Find ways to incentivise your staff to come to work.

Coming to work should be a pleasure. Your staff should be boasting to their friends that they work for you.

At US tech-giant Cisco, 96% of employees say they’re proud to tell others they work there. According to greatplacetowork.com’s annual survey, Cisco is 2021’s best company to work for.

Part of their recipe to success in bagging the award was:

  • Showing exceptional care for their employees during the pandemic.
  • Allowing staff time off when they needed it.
  • Being honest and ethical.
  • Contributing to the community.
  • Giving staff 40 hours a year paid time off to volunteer.

Research by professional networking platform, LinkedIn, found that Barclays is the best place to work in the UK in 2021.

The bank has strategies enabling staff to build and sustain a long-term career, giving them a feeling of job security and a goal-based career path. Barclays also has a strong mentoring program and compulsory training on diversity and inclusion.

Employee-centred initiatives like these give staff a sense of belonging and loyalty to the company. With that mindset, why would they want to stay away from work?

2. Safeguard your employees’ mental health.

The Covid-19 pandemic has taken its toll on the nation’s mental health, with people struggling with the effects of isolation, job security, and grief for lost loved ones.

And, according to recent research, 93% of 1000 managers surveyed believed employee mental health was negatively impacting their bottom line.

So now more than ever, it’s vital to have measures in place to tend to the mental health needs of your staff.

Not only are mentally healthy staff less likely to need time off, their efficiency and productivity will be higher. So it makes sense to:

  • Encourage open discussion about mental health in the workplace.
  • Make wellbeing a priority by encouraging staff to exercise regularly, meditate and take regular breaks.
  • Allow time off for mental health appointments.
  • Offer staff access to wellbeing apps.
  • Offer awareness training for staff on mental health, physical exercise and healthy eating.
  • Encourage outdoor working wherever possible.
  • Support staff to become mental health first aiders.

3. Introduce an employee assistance programme.

If you haven’t got one already, consider introducing an employee assistance programme.

These programmes, which give your staff confidential access to an independent mental health adviser, may be a cost to you as employer, but can give a good return on investment through reduced absences.

While big multinationals may have their own in-house EAP services, the best bet for smaller businesses is to look at one of the multitude of outsourced services available. It’s a highly competitive market, with an accessible price point for even the smallest of businesses.

And from an employee perspective, an external advice service gives a stronger sense of impartiality than an internal programme accessed through HR.

Staff can access your EAP to seek help on a wide range of issues, personal or professional, from bereavement and financial troubles to relationship issues and workplace conflict.

An EAP is a way of demonstrating you’re a caring employer who is prepared to put your people first by providing them real help if it becomes necessary.

4. Help staff achieve a healthy work-life balance.

Covid-19 has opened people’s eyes to the benefits of working more flexibly. During lockdown, working from home became the new normal. Your staff may now be feeling reluctant to return to the old ways of a long commute, problems arranging childcare and working in a crowded office they may consider a health risk.

The pandemic aside, allowing your staff to work more flexibly than a traditional 9-5 is a worthwhile way of avoiding unauthorised absences to pick up kids, wait in for deliveries or take a relative to a hospital appointment.

Companies like Taylor Wimpey, Starbucks and Zoom embrace a healthy work-life balance for their staff, offering benefits like flexible hours, the opportunity to purchase additional holiday and ‘happiness events’.

Some things you can do give your staff a better work-life balance:

  • Encourage hybrid working and flexitime. By allowing staff to do a blend of working from home and coming into the office, you’ll make it easier for them to readjust to post-pandemic/furlough working life.
  • Allow other forms of remote working, like dialing in from a relative’s house or local co-working space. It’s attractive to staff and shouldn’t disrupt productivity.
  • Allow full-time staff to move to part-time hours. The ability to work part-time is useful for new parents who want to spend early-years time with their children. It can also give staff who can afford a reduction in pay the chance to work fewer hours to follow a hobby or care for a relative.
  • Investigate job sharing for roles that can be performed by more than one person. A job share allows each jobholder to have more flexibility over the day/hours they work.
  • Investigate the possibility of on-site childcare provision, and/or offer support to parents in finding nearby childcare facilities.

5. Allow your staff to take ‘duvet days’.

One of the biggest causes of absenteeism is work-related stress, which can lead to staff taking unauthorised time off in order to recover.

What better way to avoid the temptation to skive than by allowing workers to take a day off for whatever reason, no questions asked?

Duvet days are paid days off allowing staff to rest and recuperate for short periods of time away from the office. They may seem like a luxury your business can’t afford, but they have been shown to work wonders for productivity and staff morale.

As well as reducing absenteeism, duvet days can:

  • Encourage honesty.
  • Increase productivity.
  • Recharge and reinvigorate staff.
  • Attract new talent.
  • Discourage ‘presenteeism’.

6. Encourage a culture of openness and communication.

Make sure your chain of command is communicating effectively with your people. Your staff should be receiving regular, transparent communications from the business.

Stand-ups, team meetings and one-to-ones are important ways of staying in close touch with the needs of your staff. It’s important to demonstrate you’re listening to them and willing deal with their problems and concerns

Board directors, heads of department and line managers, should be regularly checking in with their teams, collectively and individually. Open communication shows you care, and is the best way of identifying signs of disengagement or low morale that may lead to absenteeism.

We live in uncertain times, and not all corporate strategy can be revealed to all staff. But to avoid suspicion and mistrust, it’s important to be honest and keep the door open.

7. Make the workplace social and fun.

Your employees aren’t simply showing up to work to pay their rent. There’s more to the modern workplace than that.

Young staff in particular are looking for a range of needs to be met by their employer, beyond the purely financial. These include the need to feel valued, and challenged and to have a realistic sense of career progression.

Equally important for most staff is the feeling that they’re working with people whose company they enjoy, and who they can experience a range of social activities with.

  • Create rest and recreational areas for your people to meet together.
  • Encourage staff to spend meals together by having on-site catering facilities.
  • Organise after-work activities and socials.
  • Have a games area – cards, Cluedo, table football… Somewhere to hang out with colleagues and have fun – with a bit of healthy competition thrown in!

Find out more about how our time and attendance solutions can help you manage and reduce absenteeism in your workplace.