4 Strategies to Reduce Employee Absenteeism -

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Every organization and manager will experience the impact of employees and team members not showing up for work at one time other or another.  If left unchecked, employers and team leaders can be challenged to meet their organizational goals. How do you reduce employee absenteeism?

How Can Employee Absenteeism be Reduced?

The key is to take a supportive stance to meet the needs of employees, rather than focusing on corrective and disciplinary actions. If attendance challenges are discussed and problem-solved between employers and employees, creative and effective solutions can be quite successful.

When employers seek information from employees about the barriers to attendance and accept some responsibility for those barriers being in place then solutions can be developed. With input of employees these are more likely to address the causes leading to absenteeism.

In adopting a supportive stance, employers and team leaders are encouraged to consider four strategies that focus on helping an employee’s well-being. These include creating a sense of pride, investing in mental health and wellness, applying a whole-person approach, and viewing childcare as a necessity to achieve optimal employee attendance and performance.

1. Create a Sense of Pride

Instilling employees with a sense of pride in their organization will positively influence their commitment to show up for work.  A key part of this is recognizing the value and contribution of employees, so they feel their work matters. Employees need to see how they are making a difference to the overall success of their organization.

Celebrate achievements!

  • Run marketing campaigns to highlight how employees add to their organization’s value proposition.
  • Establish recognition programs acknowledging and rewarding employee achievements.
  • Use public relations to externally communicate and promote organizational successes.

2. Invest in Mental Health and Wellness Resources

Illness, be it physical or mental, can negatively impact attendance, performance and quality of work. Investing in proactive initiatives may prove more cost-effective than reactive measures.

Empower employees to make positive lifestyle changes:

  • Provide wellness education, employee support services, and access to programming to help form new habits that can lead to a healthier workforce.
  • Promote illness prevention goals instead of perfect attendance goals.
  • Add fun and motivation to the wellness initiatives! For example, promote competitive challenges based on a department’s combined steps taken or pounds lost. 

3. Adopt a Whole-Person Approach

A whole-person approach is beneficial to employees and may lead to more effective ways to operate a business. People have multi-dimensional needs. The adoption of policies and practices that consider the multiple roles an employee may juggle in their life circumstance can help to address these needs.  Offering flexible work schedules is a key practice that may support employees with the challenge of balancing work, family and personal needs.

Ways to accommodate a whole-person approach:

  • Offer the option of a 4-day work week. Employees would continue to work 40 hours a week but would benefit from 3 days of rest. This type of scheduling model can be used to increase hours of operation without incurring overtime costs. Employees who work a 10-hour workday may be more productive due to the lesser number of breaks and shifts per week.
  • Enable the ability to work from home, even if only on a limited basis. This may help employees be productive during times they would otherwise be absent.

4. View Childcare as a Necessity

Employees with school age or younger children will be distracted and perhaps absent when childcare is an issue. Expecting employees to choose between work or parenting is unreasonable inappropriate in a competitive labor market. Employers who view childcare as a necessity versus a luxury will be better able to develop solutions that support employees and workplace operations.

Support a range childcare options:

  • Enable emergency daycare support for organizations reliant on in-person workers.
  • Establish on-site daycare which may also support recruitment and retention initiatives.
  • Give employees the option to work from home when children are sick or when childcare is temporarily unavailable.

About the Author

Dr. Sue Haywood is the Business Unit Lead, HR with Business Sherpa Group and an Adjunct Professor at the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University. Sue’s career includes service with the Canadian Forces and HR roles within healthcare, municipal government, Pepsi, and Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. Her experience and knowledge of the HR considerations enable her to provide strategic advice to private and public sectors, unionized and non-unionized workplaces, and large and small organizations. She serves on the HRPA board of directors, volunteers with Great Dane rescue and is the proud mom of a three-year-old son.

The above article is summarized from Sue’s thesis research on absenteeism in Canadian hospitals. While Sue’s research focused on hospitals and female employees, her recommendations are applicable to any organization and their staff, regardless of gender. Below you will find a link to her the full thesis. 


Effective Strategies to Reduce Employee Absenteeism Amongst Canadian Female Employees

by Haywood, Sue, D.B.A., Walden University, 2020