Where’s my workforce? How to combat chronic absenteeism

Chronic absenteeism can cause havoc in the workplace, but finding a cure is simple. All it takes is a deeper understanding of why your employees are staying away from their desks.

Chronic absenteeism - woman stays in bed

Absenteeism costs UK businesses £16 billion each year. Despite this, many employers fail to identify the root cause.

On the surface, the reasons for absence seem obvious: illness, childcare, travel etc. But while these events lose you a day or two, they don’t explain long-term absenteeism. When employees habitually fail to show up for work the cause is usually burnout, stress and/or low morale.

If you want to combat chronic absenteeism, first you need to understand why your employees are struggling to commit.

Why are my employees disengaged?

Employee disengagement kills progress. Productivity plummets, revenue decreases and the mood in your office begins to stagnate, so asking yourself this question is a good place to start. Low morale often stems from deep-rooted workplace issues; ones that need your immediate attention, such as:

  • Micromanagement
  • Poorly-implemented change
  • Lack of leadership
  • Poor internal communication
  • Boring and repetitive tasks

Talk to your employees and learn where their frustrations lie. Once you have that information you can start to make changes.

How can I get my team back on board?

storm trooper gets back on board

To combat chronic absenteeism, you need to address the issues that make their working life a chore. You’re not going to be able to solve every problem, but there are things you can do to improve the situation. Here are four steps you can take to get a more employee-centric workplace:

1. Recognise achievements

Good work requires effort and dedication, but it should never feel like peeling a potato with a spoon. 54 percent of workers feel undervalued by their seniors and would like them to show their appreciation more often. It’s worth taking this into account when tackling absenteeism.

Take the time to notice when someone over-performs or goes out of their way to help a colleague or the business. Recognition, even in the form of a quick thank you email, can go a long way towards showing your employees that their work isn’t going unnoticed.

2. Become a macro-manager

Micromanagement leads your employees to believe you have little trust in their capabilities. While it can be difficult to detach completely from a project, delegation is beneficial for everyone. As a business owner, you can – and should – offload the work that’s keeping you from genuine innovation. At the same time, doing so shows your employees that you trust their decisions.

Prioritise your task list and focus your attention on the jobs that will generate new business opportunities for your company. For everything else, let your employees take responsibility.

3. Keep communication human

Is the door to your office really open? If your open-door policy is more of a statement than a reality, change the way you communicate with employees. Today’s technology enables you to communicate in real-time, on the move, so even when you’re not in the office you can stay connected.

91 percent of workers feel motivated to do their job when they have leadership support. Try mobile apps such as Slack, Workhive and Attentiv. Let your team know when you’re available and remain open to suggestions, feedback and requests.

4. Eliminate workplace inertia

How much time do your employees waste on admin? It’s probably more than you think. Workers spend 41 percent of their day on tasks that offer little personal satisfaction. When you look at it from this perspective, it’s no wonder they take liberties with time-off.

Finding ways to cut menial tasks is key. Automating thankless jobs can help.  In fact, it’s now possible to automate 45 percent of workplace tasks, according to McKinsey.

Make it easy for employees to complete purchase orders, keep on top of accounts, fill in spreadsheets or share remarkable content with intuitive workplace applications. Once you abolish boredom, you create time for more fulfilling projects.

Don’t take attendance, take responsibility

As a manager, you need to do more than just keep a record of employee activity. You need to commit to boosting morale, offering actionable guidance and bettering the work lives of your team. It’s a well-known fact that happy, healthy employees get more done. Chronic absenteeism is curable, it just takes compassion and adaptability on your part.

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