According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, private-sector employees who have completed one year of service receive an average of ten (10) PTOs (paid time off) days per year.
This data suggests that companies expect employees to be absent—on average—one day per month.
But what happens when employees are absent for more than one day per month or regularly?
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.
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.
Absenteeism is not just a problem at your company; it's a nation-wide issue.
That said, 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. This is likely a symptom of a deeper and systemic disengagement issue.
Temporary band-aid solutions will not suffice if you wish to lower employee absenteeism in an enduring way.
The root cause of employee disengagement must be addressed with a strategically implemented Employee Engagement Program for absenteeism issues to be truly resolved.
In fact, according to a Gallup Workplace report, businesses boasting a highly engaged workforce are showing to have a powerful impact on lowering employee absenteeism by up to 41%.
By now, it should be explicit: Employee engagement will help to lower absenteeism, but "employee engagement" can mean many things.
For example, an Employee Engagement Program can include several components that ultimately influence employee happiness, such as work-life balance, compensation and benefits, rewards and recognition, and so on.
For the maximum impact on lowering absenteeism, we suggest the implementation of a full-scale Employee Engagement Program. 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 components of an Employee Engagement Program that have been shown to impact absenteeism.
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 workers are probably participating in different degrees of unpaid labour, such as caring for children or aging loved ones. Two days off a week sometimes isn’t enough to take care of it all, including finding time to recharge yourself.
Many progressive businesses already offer employees a half or full day on Fridays for this reason. Alternatively, some companies offer flexible work hours or the option to work from home.
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.
As a case in point, Microsoft Japan recently tested out a revolutionary work policy: a four-day week. They called it “Working Reform Project.”
Hypothesizing that better work-life balance would improve worker satisfaction, engagement, and ultimately 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 25.4 percent fewer days off during the month.
Another crucial component of the employee engagement puzzle is recognition and reward. Showing gratitude to employees (with words or spontaneous gifts) is invaluable in today’s work market.
Offering a paycheck isn’t enough. Workers look to their careers for respect, for a sense of accomplishment, for a feeling of purpose. Expressing regular gratitude and appreciation is critical in creating this type of meaningful workplace.
Offering recognition does wonders for worker morale and as a result, fosters employee engagement and in extension, impacts absenteeism rates and overall productivity.
A study, funded by Make Their Day, an employee motivation firm, showed that 90% of people surveyed said a “fun work environment” was very or extremely motivating.
An official employee recognition platform like Applauz Recognition provides a digital hub where workers can mutually recognize each other work — boosting collaboration and morale — essentially building a “fun” workplace where people will be excited to go to work in the morning. Instead of being absent.
Another study titled “The Impact Of Reward And Recognition Programs On Employee’s Motivation And Satisfaction” looked at the impact of a recognition program on employee motivation and satisfaction.
The study found a “significant relationship” between recognition and motivation at work. In short, formally recognizing employee’s work is instrumental to ensuring ongoing employee motivation, and in extension, reducing absenteeism.
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