5 Effective Strategies For Reducing Employee Absenteeism

July 2021

Rising employee absenteeism can be extremely harmful to a company, especially when key members of the team are frequently calling in sick. Many things can be a factor in rising levels of absenteeism in the workplace, here are some of the top causes we know about and most importantly, what you can do to reduce them!

The Main Causes of Employee Absenteeism

To resolve the issues causing employee absenteeism, we must first understand what those issues are.

Many possible factors contribute to employee absenteeism, and it is rarely caused by one problem alone.

Before disciplining your employees for not showing up, try to figure out why it may be that they’re choosing not to. From there you can work with them to solve the problems. Here are some of the main contributors to employee absenteeism that most companies don’t know about.

Stress & How It Affects The Workplace

Mental health is no small matter for many people. However, it’s often seen as a taboo topic, especially in the workplace or around colleagues. It can decrease workplace morale when employees are experiencing mental illness but feel like they have to hide it or lie about it. Low employee morale means lowered efficiency and performance quality, too.

Some surveys show that up to 42% of staff who call in sick are doing so because of mental illness, not something physical like the flu, though they may fake symptoms to avoid judgment. This data breaks down even further to explain that the cause of this is 21% stress, 18% anxiety, and 20% depression. Those numbers may seem high, but it’s estimated that 13% of the population analyzed worldwide suffers from some form of mental illness.

You may think this doesn’t apply to your workplace because you haven’t heard anyone talk about mental illness. However, 24% of employees are afraid to disclose this information or admit that it’s the real reason they need the day off. They expect to be ridiculed, judged, or not taken seriously if they tell the truth. As many as 27% of employees feel it’s forbidden on some level to own up to their mental illness. 36% are also concerned about how it would affect their colleagues’ opinions of them.

Though great strides have been taken toward destigmatizing mental health days, roughly 27% of employers would like their workplace to be more open about mental health. Employees tend to agree. 25% of them even expressed a desire for an increase in annual leave dedicated to dealing with their mental health issues.

There is another contributor to mental health issues like stress, depression, and anxiety that employers can help address: money.

Studies show that the majority of mental illnesses are either caused or worsened by money struggles. Approximately 46% of people that are impoverished or in debt suffer from some form of mental illness. When Money and Mental Health conducted a survey of 5,500 people, 86% of respondents that they had at one point struggled with mental illness made worse by financial hardship.

Almost one in five people with poor mental health has substantial debt. As many as 72% said that their financial situation was worsened by their mental state. This creates a cycle of debt and mental health issues that is almost impossible to break without outside help.

As such, it goes without saying your company payroll processes will have a significant impact on this. That's why at PayCaptain, we created a whole set of features around Financial Wellness for employees.

Poor Workplace Morale

If your employees’ morale levels are frequently low, then why would they want to come in? The most common cause of low workplace morale is feeling that their work is undervalued and the company they work for doesn’t appreciate them. Being underpaid or not receiving adequate work benefits can also cause employee morale to drop.

Employee absenteeism can also cause the morale of other employees to plummet. This makes them feel even more overworked and encourages them to follow suit, creating an endless cycle of employee absenteeism and decreasing morale. Since morale is contagious, every negative thought or expression multiplies itself until the entire workplace feels gloomy and hopeless. Avoid that by boosting morale as often as possible.

Harsh Management

Management will need to discipline, reprimand, and correct employees from time to time. That’s a given. However, a problem develops when managers are harsher than they need to be or inconsistent with the enforcement of a company’s rules. These issues also cause the work environment to feel hostile to and unwanting toward its employees.

If rules are not enforced consistently and punishments vary with no discernible reason, it is hard for employees to understand what’s expected of them and what they’re doing to upset management.

The Solutions

These problems are significant and may seem impossible to solve. Decreasing employee absenteeism isn’t nearly as hard as it sounds, though. Here are 5 effective ways to address employee absenteeism.

Improve Morale

Improving workplace morale is the easiest solution, and one of the most likely to yield results. Big changes aren’t always a must for improving workplace morale, and there are often many small changes you can make that will have a major impact.

One of the main causes of low morale is employees feeling like their opinions are going unheard. Take the time to sit down and get feedback. Discuss possible solutions to any concerns they have. Most importantly, don’t forget to listen and implement the solutions you agree upon.

Frustrating management responses can damage morale faster than you’d think. If your management team is abrasive, unagreeable, and lacks communication skills, then it’s time to make some changes. Use feedback from the previous step to teach your management team how they can improve. You can even implement a training program or two as you see fit.

The recent pandemic has also shown us the impact loneliness can have on our mental health. If employees feel lonely or disconnected, this will also affect the overall morale of the team. As such, arranging regular activities with team members or offering groups and communication channels can help to alleviate thi. This is especially important if you’re one of the employers making a switch to offering more flexible, remote working options.

Once you’ve improved morale, stress and burnout will be problems of the past. Employee teamwork, efficiency, and productivity will be at an all-time high, and employee absenteeism will be lower than ever before.

Reduce Stress and Burnout

The combination of workplace stress and employee burnout is detrimental in terms of employee absenteeism. These are commonly caused by an understaffed workplace, being overworked, feeling like too much pressure is being put on them, feeling undervalued, and feeling unsafe in the work environment.

Any company with stressed and burned-out employees is going to suffer large productivity hits. Absenteeism means fewer employees, which decreases what you can get done. Employee stress and burnout are more likely to affect your hardest-working, highest-valued employees. People under high amounts of stress are known to have less effective immune systems and are more likely to get sick than people at an average or low stress level.

Ensure your management team is properly equipped to deal with employees compassionately and with understanding. Also consider introducing health and wellbeing benefits or initiatives across the company.

Normalize Mental Health Topics

While businesses and HR departments are making great progress towards destigmatizing mental health discussions, there is still societal pressure on employees to stay quiet about their poor mental health.

If companies band together and make mental health discussions more common — or even find ways to encourage them — employees may feel less pressured to lie about their reasons for calling in. They may even stop feeling the need to do so as frequently if they know they have a safe place at work to discuss their troubles. Knowing they’re not alone can help manage their mental illness and make them less likely to feel like they simply can’t bear going to work.

Provide Access to Support

Most companies include mental health care in their employee benefits, according to statistics from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. In fact, only 3% of organizations refuse to offer any sort of mental health coverage. 86% offer general mental health coverage. 90% offer an employee assistance program, 67% offer some form of coverage for substance abuse treatment, and between 10% and 35% offer additional options to help mentally ill employees.

Making sure your company isn’t part of the 3% that disregards the needs of employees with mental health struggles is vital to reducing absenteeism.

Be Flexible

Companies that are too rigid in their scheduling, management, and financial products give employees the impression that they aren’t valued. By offering a more flexible work schedule and sick day policy, you give the employees a bit more wiggle room to free up time to work on mental health and other issues. This means they’ll have to call in sick less often, thus reducing employee absenteeism.

Making your Payroll more flexible can also help. Giving your employees access to software like PayCaptain, for example, could benefit the matter. Being able to handle expenses before receiving their monthly paycheck can alleviate the stress of making sure they can afford their bills, not to mention the other benefits of faster payments.

If you follow all of these steps, you’ll soon be on your way to creating a happier, healthier and more productive team.

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