Applauz Blog

How to Lower Absenteeism by 41% with Employee Engagement

Published: December 3, 2019

Last Updated: February 7, 2024

  4 min read


Employee absenteeism can be a serious problem for businesses. Let's look at the employee engagement initiatives that are proven to lower absenteeism.

Out of 20-working days in a month, how many are you usually absent from work? Most people don't miss more than a day or two a month, especially without a valid reason.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, private-sector employees who have completed one year of service receive an average of ten (10) PTO's (paid time off) days per year.

This data suggests that companies expect employees to be absent (on average) only one day per month.

But what happens when employees are absent for more than one day per month regularly?

Absenteeism Is on the Rise

Regular absenteeism poses a serious problem for businesses: It negatively impacts productivity, and it's a red flag for employee disengagement. Not to mention, absenteeism strongly affects the company's bottom line.

When people don't show up for work, production is always affected.

In Canada, Statistics Canada data shows absenteeism has gone up over the past several years.

In 2014 the average days lost per worker in a year was 8.8, and the most recent data shows in 2018 the average days lost at 10.

What does that tell us? Absenteeism is not just a problem at your company; it's a nation-wide issue.

One very important question then remains: Why?

What is the root cause of employees not reporting for work?

Frequently, outside forces are to blame for employee absenteeism.

Perhaps an employee is going through something personal that is causing them to miss more work than usual; this is not the type of absenteeism we are addressing.

For this article, we are referring to a more harmful form of absenteeism— one that is a regular occurrence—and is coupled with low productivity and performance.

In this case, absenteeism is likely a symptom of a systemic issue, one that originates from within the organization and its culture.


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How to Tackle Absenteeism with Employee Engagement

Lowering employee absenteeism in a lasting way is not possible with temporary band-aid solutions.

The first step: Address the root cause of employee disengagement.

Pro Tip: Many companies use a Pulse Survey Tool to assess employee pain points. As a result, managers can make sharper decisions on which engagement strategies to prioritize.

Resolving absenteeism becomes easier with a data-driven approach.

That said, if this sounds like a lot of work, be assured engagement efforts have proven to return dividends!

According to a Gallup Workplace report, businesses with engaged workforces have lower employee absenteeism rates by up to 41%.

Which areas of employee engagement should take priority?

If you don't have the time and resources to conduct employee surveys, that's OK!

Organizational research has pinpointed two critical areas of employee engagement that have the strongest impact on absenteeism:

1. Work/Life Balance
2. Recognition and Appreciation

For the maximum impact on lowering absenteeism, we suggest building a full-scale Employee Engagement Program that targets all critical areas of employee engagement. However, we know that many businesses may not have the time or resources to invest in a multi-dimensional program all at once.

So, let's keep it simple and look at the two key components of employee engagement that have the most significant impact on absenteeism.


Work-Life Balance

Work is a significant pillar in our lives.

When you consider the hours that you're actually "clocked in" at work in addition to commuting to work, one thing is clear; work takes up a significant amount of time.

Businesses must acknowledge that all workers are participating in different degrees of unpaid labour, such as taking care of running a home, caring for children, ageing parents, or other loved ones.

Two days off a week usually isn’t enough to take care of it all, including finding time to recharge yourself.

Here are some contemporary policies and strategies companies offer to promote better work/life balance:

All these policies serve a goal: to help employees manage all their responsibilities without feeling overwhelmed to the point where they must miss actual work to recuperate.

Does better work/life balance lower absenteeism: Yes! 

As a case in point, Microsoft Japan recently tested out a revolutionary work policy: a four-day week. They called it “Working Reform Project.”

Microsoft Japan speculated that a better work-life balance would improve worker satisfaction and productivity. They tested out the hypothesis with a trial for one month.

The result: with an improved work-life balance, not only did productivity soar by 39%, but they also saw employees also took 25% fewer days off during the month.

This work/life balance paradigm applies to on hourly service workers as well.

Reported by The Atlantic, Michelin-starred restaurants Baumé in Palo Alto moved to four-day weeks to reduce stress on staff. The result of better work/life balance? Yes! "Employees are healthier and use fewer sick days because they have more time to exercise, cook better food, and take better care of themselves."


Recognition and Appreciation

Another crucial component of employee engagement is recognition and rewards. Showing gratitude to employees (with words or gifts) is a valuable benefit in today's modern workplaces. Offering a paycheck isn't enough.

Many young workers look to their careers for a sense of respect, accomplishment, and purpose. Offering gratitude and praise to employees for their unique skills is important in building a meaningful and happy work culture.

Impact of recognition on absenteeism is proven

Recognition does wonders for employee happiness. Giving gratitude cultivates an experience of belonging and psychological safety. Employees show up to work more as a result. Lowering absenteeism and improving employee productivity.

A poll of Australian workers revealed that 70% of employees say that motivation and morale would improve massively with managers saying "thank you" more often. 

Another study surveyed employees who voluntarily left a company. A whopping 79% reported that the primary reason they left was not for more money, but because they did not feel appreciated.

Pro Tip: An employee recognition platform like Applauz Recognition provides a digital space where workers can mutually recognize each other work.

Final Thoughts

Lowering employee absenteeism is possible with two critical areas of employee engagement: Work/life balance and recognition and appreciation.

First, a healthy work/life balance means executing policies that focus on supporting the mental and physical health of employees. This means that "burnout" culture is not promoted. Employees are entitled to free time in the evenings on weekends. They can unplug and take care of their families and themselves without worrying about being privately chastised for it.

Secondly, lowering absenteeism is achieved by building a culture of appreciation and gratitude. Focus on an employee recognition and rewards program that centers on appreciating employees for their unique skills and contributions.

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