Global HR 8 min

Absence management: Why employees are taking more time off

Written by Amanda Day
April 11, 2024
Amanda Day


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Absenteeism rate is the percentage of time a team member was absent from work during a certain period. High absenteeism rates can a sign of employee dissatisfaction and burnout.

For an effective absence management plan, we'll take a look at reasons for absences and why focusing on employee experience is the key to improving attendance. We'll also offer actionable tips on building an effective absence management plan that helps employees plan for their time off.

Why do absentee rates rise?

Some of the main reasons for absenteeism are:

  • Sickness and physical illness

  • Rise of mental health

  • Increasing cost of healthcare and lack of comprehensive employee benefits

  • Lack of affordable childcare 

  • Burnout and stress 

For an organization to effectively manage absenteeism, it’s important to analyze a company's internal and external factors that can impact absentee rates.

For instance, let’s say physical illness is the top reason for absenteeism at your organization. You can review your health insurance benefit plan to see if it’s comprehensive enough, or ask your employees if they need additional support to take care of their health.

Another root cause for absenteeism is work-life imbalance. Ask your employees if they are able to find time to rest or if they’re feeling overworked. 

Proactively develop a strategic and effective management plan that targets the root causes of absenteeism at your organization. It might seem like an added effort at first, but your company will see less absences in the long run.

The psychology behind absenteeism: the era of the disengaged employee

Psychological reasons might be the cause for absenteeism, including job dissatisfaction and disengagement.

A ‘disengaged employee’ is a person who feels overwhelmed and undervalued, so they lack motivation and commitment to their jobs. Because a disengaged employee is dissatisfied with their job, they are more likely to miss work.

In other words, employee engagement is positively linked to performance and negatively related to absenteeism.

So to decrease absenteeism rate, make sure your employees feel connected to the organization in terms of job satisfaction, workplace environment, and employee well-being.

Here are actionable strategies you can use to improve engagement rates at your company: 

  • Offer competitive compensation and benefits 

  • Create a strong sense of purpose through company culture 

  • Recognize and reward good performance 

To create a truly supportive environment, you need to know what your employees need to consistently and effectively work throughout the year. For example, one big mistake that companies make is spending a lot of money on benefits that employees do not want or use.

It’s important to identify benefits that your team members actually want in order to decrease absenteeism. If you are hiring across multiple countries, make sure your benefit packages are tailored to each country.

Is absenteeism the new form of ‘quiet quitting’?

Quiet quitters do the bare minimum they need to at work in order to get paid. They’re less interested in career growth and less connected to their company. So if a more attractive offer from a competitor comes around, they’re likely to take it.  It’s becoming clear that recurring absenteeism is a form of quiet quitting. Quiet quitting is rooted in the belief that employers don’t care about their employees, so employees shouldn’t care about their work either. 

Quiet quitters take more days off and emotionally disengage from their workplace. This leads to higher absenteeism rates, less productivity, and increased turnover rates. 

Quiet quitting often stems from deep issues with an employee's workplace, such as poor management, a lack of opportunities for growth and development, or underwhelming compensation packages. 

Unfortunately, at least 50% of the US workforce are quiet quitters. This alarming number emphasizes the significance of addressing the root causes of disengagement in the workplace. Make sure you’re creating an absence management plan that accounts for multiple reasons for quite quitting. An effective absence management plan includes:

  • Team-building activities

  • Offering flexible work hours to support work-life balance 

  • Regular feedback sessions with all employees

Why your business could be in danger without a proper absence management plan 

Without a proper absence management plan, absenteeism can impact your bottom line but also how your business operates daily. 

Unplanned absences cause fractured relationships between employees, damage to workflows, and unfair workload distribution. This results in decreased employee morale and productivity. 

In short, without an absence management plan your business can be impacted by:

  • Decreased productivity and efficiency

  • Increased costs for overtime or temporary employees

  • Toxic work environments

  • Non-compliance and increased legal risks

It's also important that you have a sensible and balanced absence management program. Tesla received backlash for going ‘overboard’ by tracking and emailing any employee who didn’t ‘badge in enough’ throughout the week. 

Effective absence management should be based on understanding and compassion, but also accountability and organization. Take the time to brainstorm contingency plans to prepare for absences so your remaining staff are less impacted.

4 absence management tips that’ll help boost attendance rates 

Here are four absence management tips that can help boost attendance rates and reduce absenteeism.

1. Introduce clear attendance policies 

First, clearly communicate attendance policies to your team members. This involves setting clear expectations and guidelines for attendance, outlining consequences for non-compliance, and providing support and resources to help employees stay on track. 

When introducing clear attendance policies, make sure you: 

  • Develop a written attendance policy that outlines expectations for attendance, how much notice is required for paid time off, and expectations for the number of work hours per week. 

  • Outline consequences for repeated unplanned absences, like termination. 

An attendance policy may include points like:  

  • All employees are expected to work their scheduled shifts unless otherwise discussed. 

  • Employees must provide at least 24 hours’ notice for any absence, unless there are extenuating circumstances. 

  • Employees are expected to communicate absences to their manager.

Businesses can improve attendance rates and reduce absenteeism through clear attendance policies. Don't forget to emphasize mental health to your remote employees. If you have a team member who is frequently absent from work, connect with them to make sure they are satisfied with their work arrangements.

2. Provide flexible work arrangements 

Flexible work arrangements are a great way reduce unexpected absences. With flexible work arrangements, employees can work around unexpected events and responsibilities outside of work. Flexible work can look like remote work, flexible schedules, or asynchronous work. When providing flexible work arrangements, make sure you: 

  • Provide all the necessary tools and resources to work remotely, like laptops, VPN access, and video conference software.

  • Have a strict off-time policy that help employees separate their personal lives from their jobs when working from home. 

  • Don't expect your team members to respond right away while working remotely. Trust your team members to reach their goals at their targeted time without having to micromanage them.

3. Use HR management software to track and report absences 

When you have employees across different times zones and cultures, managing attendance and absences can be confusing. Each employee from different countries has unique holidays and expectations on leave.

Using HR Management software like Remote can help you streamline your absence management process, all in one place. With Remote, you can set up customized absence policies and workflows that account for different time zones and local laws. 

HR Management software helps your team be on the same page on attendance and time-off requests, regardless of where they’re located.  A dedicated HR Management platform can also help you with absence management by:

  • Easily approving time off requests from employees to encourage rest and time to recharge

  • Managing your team's workload by knowing which team member is on leave through an intuitive dashboard

  • Staying ahead of public holidays in different countries to expect with team member will be away

4. Encourage employees to take scheduled holidays and leave

Encouraging employees to take scheduled holidays is an effective strategy for reducing absentee rates. Promote the benefits of taking time off and actively encourage team members to schedule holidays throughout the year. 

Here are three actionable tips on how to encourage team members to take time off:

  • Remove stigma: Encourage team members to take time off when they need it, so they feel comfortable asking for leave.

  • Company benefits: Show that your organization values time off to recharge through company policies. For example, you can let your employees start their weekend early through half-day Fridays. 

  • Lead by example: Encourage managers and team leaders to take time off themselves, to set an example for other team members.

In the long term, supporting your employees to take holidays and time off reduces employee absences and improves employee retention. Encouraging your team members to take downtime also helps them find a positive work-life balance.

It’s time to develop a proper absence management plan 

Developing a proper absence management plan is crucial for businesses to improve attendance rates and reduce unplanned absenteeism. Employees are motivated to work when they are supported with an understanding time off policy.

With the help of an intuitive global HR platform like Remote, you can create an effective absence management plan that includes clear policies, effective communication, and flexible work arrangements. 

Get started with Remote today.

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