5 Proven Strategies for Decreasing Employee Absenteeism

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Caroline Forsey
Caroline Forsey


Employee absenteeism can have a major impact on your company's bottom line -- in fact, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports absenteeism costs U.S. employers $225.8 billion annually, or $1,685 per employee.


Along with revenue, employee absenteeism can negatively affect morale and productivity. Your team won't perform its best without all its members present, and if the numbers dwindle too low, your employees might feel burdened by the extra work they need to take on.Download Now: Free Company Culture Code Template

While it's not an easy problem to solve, it's critical you determine the root causes and attempt to mitigate your employees' absences -- if you don't, it could be detrimental to your workplace culture, and your company's long-term success.

Here, we'll explore five strategies you can implement to decrease employee absenteeism, while improving workplace satisfaction and engagement.

1. Implement a Wellness Program

A Towers Watson survey of about 900 employers in North America, Latin America, Europe, and Asia found that organizations with wellness initiatives experienced less unplanned absences -- just 3.3 days, as opposed to four.

A wellness program can help you mitigate health-related absences, while simultaneously lowering health care costs and reducing employee stress. Additionally, a wellness program can help improve morale and workplace culture, and even increase productivity.

In 2018, 80% of workers report feeling stressed on the job, and nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage that stress. Prolonged stress can lead to health issues including heart disease, obesity, and depression.

By taking steps to create a workplace culture that prioritizes health and wellness, you're able to decrease unhealthy habits that lead to employee absenteeism. For instance, if an employee is able to mitigate stress during your office's lunchtime yoga, she might be less likely to let that stress build up and lead to bigger problems down the road.

2. Offer Vacation Days and Paid-Time Off

At HubSpot, we have unlimited vacation days.

Oftentimes, friends will say, "So, why are you even working? Why not take vacation all the time?"

I tell them, "Because I love my job. And, also, because I'm dedicated to contributing to my team's growth, and that can't happen if I take months off."

Times have changed. The traditional nine-to-five is no longer necessary -- with modern technology, your employees can work where and whenever they want. If you hire exceptional talent who are dedicated to getting results, then you should trust them to manage their own time.

Employee absenteeism is often a result of burnout, or employees feeling they need to take days off for personal obligations. By offering a fair amount of paid-time off and vacation days (maybe even unlimited?), you can help employees feel happier about their work-life balance, and mentally recharge -- a win-win for them, and for your team's productivity.

3. Consider Flexible Hours

Numerous studies suggest working less hours correlates with higher levels of productivity. By offering employees the option to take breaks, leave early in the afternoon, or arrive later in the morning, you're giving them the flexibility to work when they're at their peak productivity levels -- and take breaks when they're not.

Additionally, offering a remote option could significantly decrease employee absenteeism, as ironic as it might sound. Working from home enables your employees to take care of sick kids, run errands, or let the electrician in without taking a full day off from work.

If you're worried about a decrease in productivity as a result of remote workers, you shouldn't be -- two-thirds of managers who offer telecommuting flexibility report employees who work from home are more productive, not less.

Ultimately, it's up to you whether flexible schedules work for you and your team, but it's a viable option for decreasing employee absenteeism by giving employees the option to take care of themselves and still get their work done, on their own terms.

Take a look at "Flexible Schedules: The Good, Bad, & the Surprising" to learn more.

4. Improve Workplace Morale

If your employees aren't excited to come to work and engage with coworkers, it could be contributing to employee absenteeism. Ultimately, humans are social creatures -- a sense of belonging is critical for workplace satisfaction.

You can build morale through team-building exercises, friendly competition between departments, and community service trips. Facilitating opportunities for employees to engage with one another, while feeling proud and inspired by their team, is imperative for combating employee absenteeism. If an employee feels appreciated and recognized by coworkers, she'll have a stronger sense of motivation to come to the office.

Additionally, your office ambiance can go a long way towards improving morale. For instance, studies suggest plants can help your employees concentrate. Scents like lavender can ease stress and promote relaxation, and small office snacks can keep your employees' energy levels up.

Ultimately, a warm, friendly, and productive environment can help reduce employee absenteeism by creating a space in which your employees want to spend their time.

5. Encourage Employee Engagement

It's a simple truth -- disengaged employees are going to look for excuses to avoid the office.

Empowering your employees and increasing their workplace satisfaction isn't just a matter of reducing absenteeism -- it's also critical for your company's long-term success. The more engaged your employees are, the better they'll perform.

So how can you increase employee engagement? The answer might be in your leadership skills. 

Ultimately, managers hold a lot of power over employees' workplace happiness. In fact, a Gallup poll found 75% of workers who voluntarily left their jobs did so because of their bosses, not the position itself.

To improve employee engagement, consider offering more autonomy and freedom for your employees to manage their own schedules and tasks.

Autonomy can be a major factor in workplace satisfaction -- one meta-analysis involving over 400,000 people in 63 countries found autonomy and control over one's life matters more to people than money.

By investing in genuine relationships with your employees, you'll quickly find there are plenty of areas you can reduce stress and improve employee engagement. Perhaps your employee is frustrated that she hasn't been given enough growth opportunities. By discussing her future goals, you can help her get on the right track and encourage engagement by giving her more tasks related to her interests.

Alternatively, maybe your employee is stressed from his morning commute. Simply granting him a flexible schedule to avoid rush hour could decrease his stress drastically.

Additionally, it's imperative you continuously inspire your employees and acknowledge your employees' through positive feedback when they perform well.

Put another way, what would get you out of bed faster in the morning -- some early morning praise from your manager, or a long to-do list with no acknowledgement for yesterday's job well done? 

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Topics: Human Resources

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