How Absenteeism Impacts Your Co-Workers

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and Kronos recently conducted a research report – Total Financial Impact of Employee Absences – with the objective of better understanding how organizations across the country are managing employee absences.

Like prior research, this study underscores the greater impact that unplanned absenteeism has on the bottom line, including:

  • Wages paid to absent employees
  • Overtime pay for other employees and/or temporary workers
  • Reduced productivity
  • Safety issues

What differentiates this research though, is the focus on how absenteeism impacts co-workers. And it’s worse than you think.

Staff members who are left to cover for employees with poor attendance eventually start to resent the chronic absenteeism. Over time, this frustration can result in open conflict between employees. The tension created by pending confrontation or in the wake of past conflicts, can create an uncomfortable work environment, slow productivity, and cause high turnover.

Absent workers cause a disruption to the normal work schedule which can cause stress among co-workers and managers in the organization. Managers must struggle to reschedule workers to fill the gap the absent worker causes in the department. Absenteeism that occurs consistently creates the stress regularly, lowering the morale of workers and management in the company.

Poor Performance
Employees who are allowed to sustain an excessive number of absences without any apparent penalty from management can hurt others’ performance. The employees see the concessions the employer is making to retain chronically absent employees, and the others feel they also can exploit the system. This creates a cycle that can lead to low productivity, poor employee morale, and a high turnover rate.

Stymied Growth
When an employee has poor attendance, he/she is unable to become proficient in new job duties and offers little to no value to the organization in helping to fulfill its growth objectives. That employee is also left behind on changes that take place; others have to step in to bring him/her up to date, which can cause further delays in production or services offered.

Never fear – not all is lost! The first step to recovery is acceptance (let’s face it, there are plenty of legitimate reasons we all need to miss work!). Feel better already? Good, now follow these suggestions to mitigate excessive absenteeism and related stress in your office.

Implement, Communicate, and Enforce an absence policy. What’s the point in having an absence policy if you do not communicate it to your employees? This policy also needs to be monitored and enforced consistently and fairly throughout the company. More than half of employed adults believe that their work performance is negatively impacted when attendance policies are not fairly enforced.

Encourage Proactive Communications between managers and staff. Be realistic about attendance during the summer and certain holidays – try not to start projects that require all hands on deck when increased absence is likely. In the same vein, support flexibility. Not everyone celebrates the same holidays, so be open when talking to your employees about taking time off, working a different schedule or swapping shifts.

Provide Incentives for excellent attendance. Many organizations effectively use perfect attendance bonuses as an incentive to reduce absenteeism.

Even though we all feel the effects of chronic absenteeism, there are many actions to take to minimize the fallout. Good management practices begin with recognizing the problem and developing attendance policies and end with properly managing excessive absenteeism when it arises.