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The Effects of Absenteeism on the Workplace

The effects of absenteeism are generally felt by individuals, teams and the organisation as a whole. By understanding the serious impact, you can work to minimise absenteeism in your business altogether.

Absenteeism is far from being a new concept to business owners and managers. In the world of workforce management and human resources, it’s quite a common term. When managed effectively, absenteeism might not be a major issue for your workplace. However, it’s pretty common for absenteeism to get out of hand, becoming increasingly common with little to no communication. When this happens, the effects of absenteeism on the workplace can be pretty serious.  

Causes of Absenteeism in the Workplace 

We’ve written other blog posts that highlight the causes of workplace absenteeism in detail. However, here’s a list of the most common ones; 

Manager showing code of conduct around workplace bullying & harassment to employee on laptop
  • Illness and injury 
  • Bullying and harassment 
  • Stress/Burnout 
  • Depresssion/Mental Health 
  • Family reasons 
  • Disengagement 
  • Job hunting 

There’s also the issue of punctuality and time theft, which play into the effects of absenteeism on the workplace. While they are not actual forms of absenteeism, they do contribute to the workplace culture that cultivates high rates of absenteeism.  Technically, employees that commonly clock in late, leave work early or take a long lunch break are engaging in absenteeism. You can monitor and prevent absenteeism like this with the right time and attendance systems and policies in place. 

The Effects of Absenteeism on the Workplace 

Everyone knows that absenteeism is bad, right? But what makes it so bad? Why is it something you should be actively working to eliminate from your organization? Well, there are quite a few ways that absenteeism affects the workplace. 

Impact of Productivity 

1. Impact on Individual Productivity 

It goes without saying that when a worker is absent, they are not being productive. So first off, the amount of time that an employee is absent directly impacts their gross productivity for the year. Not only that, but it’s likely that the employee is engaging in absenteeism due to other issues such as burnout or disengagement. This is a key example of how the effects of absenteeism in the workplace are often deeper than they seem.  

2. Impact on Team Productivity 

As absenteeism rates increase, so do the overall effects of it on the team. According to SHRM, co-workers are 29.5% less productive when covering for absent employees. Let’s look at a long-term care facility as an example. If a caregiver is absent, other caregivers have to pick up extra patients. As you can imagine, more patients in the same amount of time likely results in poorer care provision, and a lack of time to perform other job duties outside of patient care. Over time, the effects of absenteeism on the workplace in terms of team productivity accumulate, and things get out of hand. In this example, admin work can take a hit when there are fewer carers available to manage patients. 

Impact on Employee Safety 

In certain industries such as security or manufacturing, the effects of absenteeism on the workplace include increased accidents. If an employee is absent, it can force underqualified employees to undertake tasks that put them at risk. Absenteeism also often leads to employees being overworked or burnt out, creating other workplace safety issues. Again, let’s look at healthcare. If a caregiver/nurse is frequently covering for a colleague, it should come as no shock that it could result in poor judgment and mistakes. Essentially, when employees are forced to deal with increased labor, it impacts the entire organization. Like many of the effects of absenteeism on the workplace, this one links back to our previous point on productivity. When replacement workers are less skilled than their absent counterparts, of course, productivity is going to be reduced. 

Impact on Profitability  

Absenteeism generally affects profits in two ways.

1. Costs increase 

Absenteeism is not cheap, in any way shape, or form, as it drives up costs. The main way that absenteeism affects costs is through overtime pay. While some companies/industries can simply make do with being an employee down, others cannot. Security companies need to have guards at client sites regardless of absent workers. Manufacturing companies have to produce their quotas regardless of who is present or not. Patients need care, regardless of who is absent or not. More often than not, in order to deal with absenteeism without disrupting operations, employers will have to use overtime. Pretty much every employer understands how much overtime contributes to their labor costs. 

2. Reduced Output

It goes without saying that profits decrease when output decreases. If you struggle with high absenteeism rates, it’s likely that you also struggle to maintain production/service levels. Taking manufacturing, for example, the less time a worker spends in the factory, the less output they can contribute. If this is ongoing, or you have multiple employees engaging in absenteeism, your output will be greatly affected.

The effects of absenteeism is felt by individuals, teams, and the organization as a whole. As a result, pressure is added to both productivity, profitability and safety, which often creates a vicious circle, causing more absenteeism.

How to minimize the effects of absenteeism

As a leader, HR manager or business owner, there are steps you can take to reduce the effects of absenteeism on the workplace. We break down how you can reduce absenteeism in a previous blog post. The points below focus on how you can support your team during periods of high absenteeism.

Reward & praise good attendance

Absenteeism can impact morale, as good attenders start to resent those who engage in absenteeism. In an effort to maintain their engagement in their work, be sure to reward and praise those who have good attendance. While there is no right way to do this, generally, offering some form of attendance bonus is a good place to start. Perhaps you handle it on a monthly or quarterly basis. Alternatively, you can offer extra annual leave days, or time off incentives. This will keep morale and engagement high for your employees that do not engage in absenteeism. Maintaining and perhaps improving these factors will minimize the likelihood of reduced productivity and profitability.

Cross-train your employees

Surprisingly, not many businesses provide the opportunity for up-skilling or cross-training to their employees. While it might come with an upfront cost, it can create many benefits in the long run. If your employees are cross-trained and qualified to carry out multiple roles, they can slot into many roles to fill gaps from absent employees. Hospitality is a prime example of how beneficial cross-training and up-skilling is. If a large event is taking place, and your senior bar-tender calls in sick, you might find yourself in panic mode (unless you are a Celayix customer and make use of our Find Replacement tools). However, if your floor staff is fully trained on bar service, you can have a staff member alternate between the bar and the floor as needed. When managed well, cross-training truly can minimize the effects of absenteeism on the workplace.

There are other steps you can take to ensure that absenteeism doesn’t become a major issue for your organization. While it may not seem like the most obvious option, implementing employee scheduling, and time and attendance software truly can make a difference. You might be surprised how much absenteeism declines with an effective scheduling process or flexible scheduling options. Employees are happier, making them less likely to engage in absenteeism in the first place. If you’d like to hear more about how Celayix can help your business tackle absenteeism, reach out to a Solutions Advisor today.

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