For small business owners, reducing employee absenteeism is often a key priority. There are some situations where there’s nothing you can do about absenteeism. For example, if you have an employee who is truly sick or perhaps was injured in a car accident.
However, there are also instances where you can make a positive impact on employee absenteeism in the ways you lead employees.
The Effects of Absenteeism
Absenteeism, particularly it’s excessive or tied to an underlying problem in the workplace, can have a serious effect on almost every part of a business, and especially a small business.
Absenteeism, at the simplest level, affects individual productivity. If you’re not at work as often as you could or should be, you’re simply going to be less productive, and likely also less engaged.
Along with the individual effects, if there is one employee or a few employees who are regularly missing work, then other employees’ productivity will also suffer because they have to pick up the slack.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), overtime is used to cover around 47% of employee absences, and co-workers are seen as being nearly 30% less productive when they’re making up for employees who are absent.
Managers and supervisors are affected because they’re spending their time trying to make up for absent employees.
Then, there are direct effects on profitability.
There are increased costs if a small business is paying overtime or using other expensive strategies to make up for absent employees, so that reduces profit margins.
Other effects include poor quality of goods and services, poor overall morale, and safety issues.
What a lot of small business owners have to realize is that absenteeism, depending on the specifics of the situation, may be less about the employee who’s not there and more about the business, management, and overall culture.
Common Causes of Absenteeism
Sometimes, it can go a long way for employers to start looking at what the root causes of absenteeism are, across the board, and then figure out if any of those are happening in their business.
Some of the reasons employees might be absent, aside from things like illness or injuries include:
- Harassment or bullying in the workplace. Employees who feel like they’re the target of bullying are more likely to miss work, and any kind of harassment or bullying at work can represent a cultural issue and a level of toxicity that can be problematic in many areas aside from employee attendance.
- Stress and burnout are normal at work, but if it gets to be to a point that’s unsustainable, employees will be absent more often. Along with stress, when employees feel unappreciated for their efforts, it can further reduce attendance.
- Some employees have high rates of absenteeism not because of what’s going on at work, but rather in their home lives. As an example, having childcare or eldercare fall through.
- Mental health issues, such as depression, can increase absenteeism.
- Disengagement can lead employees to take more time off because a disengaged employee is one who’s not motivated and therefore, more likely to miss work because they don’t want to go.
- Job hunting can be a reason for absenteeism as an employee looking to make a move will often take off work to go to interviews.
What Employers Can Do
The difficult area of dealing with absenteeism for employers is that they often know there are real reasons that employees miss work, but also illegitimate excuses. It’s tough to know which is which in some cases.
Regardless, the following are some things small business owners can do:
- Have an employee wellness program. A modern wellness program should address not just the physical but also the emotional needs of your employees. If you have a wellness program, it can significantly reduce your employee absenteeism. A wellness program doesn’t have to necessarily be expensive to be effective. For example, maybe you send out a regular newsletter to employees about staying healthy or offer group exercise classes sometimes. You could even just cater in a few healthy lunches each month to show employees you care about their well-being and you want to support them.
- Offer paid time off. Small business owners often feel that they don’t have the budget to offer paid time off, but the reality is that you can actually save money if you do. When employees take time off and it’s paid, then they’re less likely to show up to work sick, and they’re also less likely to feel overly burned out or stressed out.
- Think about offering flexible work hours when possible. Of course, this isn’t possible in every business or for every position, but if it is a possibility, work toward implementing it.
- Get your employees excited to come to work. There are so many ways you can do this, from gamification and fun competitions to recognizing your top-performing employees.
- Empower your employees. Empowered employees who feel like they have control over their work environment are going to be better overall in terms of performance and attendance. You want your employees to feel comfortable sharing their feedback and ideas, and you should let them work in ways that they enjoy as long as the work itself is getting done. Don’t micromanage employees.
Finally, you are the boss of your business, so don’t be afraid to look at yourself.
Think about what role you might play in your employees’ absenteeism and how you can facilitate change starting at the top. You want to be a positive, encouraging leader who cares about the welfare of your employees.
Take the time and effort to do small things that will help your employees feel happier in their job, such as asking them how things are going or letting them know when you see something that impresses you.
It’s easy as a small business owner to forget about the impact these small efforts can have on your employees and your profitability