In order for a business to operate, there needs to be employees. But when there’s an above-average rate of absenteeism in the workplace, it impacts every part of a company, from profit margins to morale.
A company can’t reach maximum potential with minimal staff.
Employee absenteeism is not the occasional sick day. It’s a recurring pattern of missing work without reason and often without notice. Chronic absenteeism is often a symptom of a bigger problem, like an unhappy workforce or poor workplace communication. it can be more than missing a whole shift. Absenteeism in workplace settings includes excessive tardiness or making a habit of leaving early.
But there’s good news. There is a solution to this problem. But companies must be willing to put in the work to find out why employees are not coming to work, why they don’t want to be at work, and then create a better environment and culture that people want to be a part of.
The Impact of Absenteeism on Frontline Success
Absenteeism can be present in any kind of company or industry. But companies with frontline workers often have higher employee absenteeism rates than those with a full-time, salaried staff.
So, how much unexcused absenteeism is acceptable?
A 1.5% absenteeism rate per employee is a healthy average. But since the pandemic, companies have seen higher numbers. This is especially true since the Great Resignation when people were quitting their jobs en masse. Even now, 40% of workers are on the verge of quitting. Why show up for a job you really don’t care about if you’re planning to quit anyway?
Hourly workers have an absenteeism rate more than double the average at 3.2%. That number moves up to 4.5% for customer-facing hourly workers.
Companies that employ frontline workers, especially those in the service industry, are already dealing with higher-than-average turnover rates. And high absenteeism rates are a sign that high turnover rates will persist.
Absenteeism costs companies $3,660 a year for each hourly worker. That’s a thousand dollars more than salaried workers.
Things that contribute to the cost include:
- The hourly pay for the missing worker
- Output and productivity loss
- Paying another worker’s salary or overtime to fill in
- Higher administrative costs to find a replacement
- Loss of customers due to staff shortage
For employees, absenteeism is more than just needing a day off. High absenteeism often corresponds with low engagement. When employees aren’t happy they don’t feel an obligation to show up.
And it’s a vicious cycle. Employees who don’t show up have little chance of becoming more engaged. And having workers absent puts more stress on their colleagues which is a hit to company morale and that disengagement spreads through the workforce.
But what if frontline businesses reverse the downward trend, engage their staff, and have a low absenteeism rate?
When a company has a low absenteeism workplace rate, it’s a sign that things are going well.
Low absenteeism leads to:
- Higher employee engagement
- Great workplace morale
- High productivity
- More collaboration and innovation
- Longer employee life cycles
If work is actually fun, employees will get a sense of FOMO when they miss a day with their crew! So make work a place people want to come to and want to work hard for.
Understanding the Types of Workplace Absenteeism
Everyone needs to miss work now and again. But there’s a difference between authorized absences and unplanned, unannounced absences.
There are any number of reasons why people miss work, like:
- Sick children or dependents
- Planned PTO or vacation time
- Family emergencies or funerals
- Maternity or paternity leave
While some of these absences might happen at the last minute (like taking care of a sick child), others can be planned in advance (like that great Hawaiian vacation you booked.) Either way, HR has protocols in place to let the company know when and why an employee needs to miss work and request time off.
Unplanned, Unauthorized Absenteeism
Workplace absenteeism that is unplanned and unannounced and is a recurring problem from one or more employees is a whole different ball game. It is often a sign that there’s something not right at work, but could also be a sign that an employee has some big life issues going on. In those instances, speak with your employees and see if there is a way you can support them, like offering them an extended leave period.
Some of the reasons for high absenteeism rates include:
- Poor relationship with manager
- Burnout and stress
- Workplace harassment
- Disengaged and unhappy
- Ongoing personal issues
- Mental wellbeing, including poor sleep
Yes, you read that last one right. Poor sleep!
According to Gallup, almost 7% of the workforce reports not sleeping well and those employees are more than twice as likely to not show up for work. In fact, absenteeism due to poor sleep costs companies a combined $44 billion every year.
How to Measure Your Employee Absenteeism Rate
Companies that track employee analytics can keep their finger on the pulse of their company. Absenteeism is one of those metrics that is important to track. How often do you have a full staff? How many days are employees not showing up? Is it just one employee, or is absenteeism a growing problem in your organization?
Here’s a simple calculation for measuring employee absenteeism:
Employee absenteeism rate = Number of employees x number of absences
Number of employees x Total work hours
After you divide the top number by the bottom number, multiply the result by 100.
Remember that an absenteeism rate of 1.5% is average. If it’s higher than that then you’ll know there are internal things that need to be addressed in your company. It’s important to track it over time to see how your engagement strategies are working.
Other metrics to track to help you build a better workplace experience include:
- Training efficiency and completion
- Applications per opening
- Click-through rates (a good indicator of communication strategy effectiveness)
Frontline businesses are prone to higher absenteeism rates. But the good news is there are strategies to stamp out high absenteeism and set your company on a whole new path.
6 Strategies to Address Absenteeism in Frontline Businesses
So, what can you do to combat absenteeism? Turns out there’s quite a bit. Here are six ways you can address employee absences.
1. Digitize Your Company with a Mobile App
For a frontline business, having a direct method of communication with employees is an essential tool. Traditionally, frontline workers have used word of mouth or bulletin boards to communicate with peers and managers. An employee communication app creates a real-time connection that builds trust and engagement. It should be used from an employee’s first day on the job (read this article for the best onboarding tips). It builds community and a culture of inclusiveness. This reduces turnover, which is high during the first few months of a frontline worker/s employment. And an added bonus: tracking frontline employee metrics is a lot easier with a workplace app like Beekeeper.
2. Support Frontline Managers with Better Training
The single most important relationship at a frontline business is between a worker and their direct manager. But 40% of managers are in their very first year which means many have never supervised other people before. Having good people management skills doesn’t always come naturally.
Support managers with training on how to connect with their teams. This might be online videos, having their own “manager mentor” at the company, or an offsite leadership skills summit. They just need some tools, skills, and confidence to grow into a leadership role.
3. Design a Better Employee Experience
Employees want more than just a punch-in, punch-out job these days. Much more. Yes, higher wages and benefits are always a good place to start. But they also want to feel connected to the company and included in communication. The employee experience is the environment, the culture, and the communication. It’s what life is like at work for both the individual and the collective workforce.
Here are a few ways to remodel the employee experience to engage workers, reduce absenteeism, and improve retention.
- Employee recognition: A little note to say thank you or ‘good job’ goes a long way with employees. They know they are seen and their work is having a positive impact on the company.
- Communication: Make sure there is good communication in your company. That means both top-down and bottom-up. Use a mobile-first solution to give workers the opportunity to contribute to the conversation. They have valuable insights that can make your business better. And make sure the top-down messaging is authentic and transparent.
- Culture: While some aspects of your company culture might happen organically, set the tone for how you want your business to run. Workers want to be a part of a diverse, inclusive environment at work where there is camaraderie, collaboration, and trust. Create a space for all and use tools that give everyone a voice.
Having a collective positive experience will improve employee morale.
4. Delegate Tasks to Frontline Workers
It seems like a basic part of running a business, but so often managers and leaders don’t know how to delegate tasks, other than the basic “to do’ list, to their frontline teams. Give workers more responsibility. This will have several benefits:
- Employees will feel a sense of pride that you’re entrusting them with duties that are above their job description.
- They will feel more accountable to their job and the company and will be excited to show up and work hard.
- As these employees gain new skills they’re in a great position to move into open manager roles in your company. There’s no greater incentive than growth opportunities and promotions!
So empower your employees by delegating tasks! They’ll rise to the occasion and feel more committed to their jobs.
5. Offer More Flexibility
Many careers these days have flexible schedules and hybrid or remote options. But that’s not the case for most frontline jobs. But employers can, and should, find a way to give frontline staff more flexibility in their schedules to create a better work-life balance. That might take the stress off of employees who have a heavy load of personal responsibilities they are trying to attend to. With an employee app, workers have greater autonomy with their schedule and the ability to switch shifts with colleagues. If they work on days that don’t conflict with outside responsibilities, there’s a better chance they’ll show up to work.
6. Support Mental Wellbeing
One in five workers report their mental well-being as poor to fair. And those workers miss about 12 days of work a year compared to the average of 2.5. That loss of productivity totals up to a $47.6 billion loss. Even though these feelings might not be work-related, companies can offer support for all workers to improve their physical and mental wellness. Have a lunchtime walking club, and start a mentorship program to build connections at work. Find ways to help work be a place of enjoyment and not something that adds more stress.
Make Absenteeism in the Workplace a Thing of the Past
Absenteeism in the workplace has become a bigger problem since the COVID pandemic. However by figuring out their absenteeism rate and prioritizing strategies to engage and empower their staff, companies will see workers showing up for a job they love.