Rethinking Absence Management

Rethinking Absence Management

Employee absences put an enormous financial burden on organizations. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that absences due to injury or illness in the workplace cost employers upwards of $225 billion annually, or $1,685 per employee. That’s a number that demands to be addressed. Chronic diseases, a rapidly aging workforce, and factors like stress, depression, and fatigue all figure into potential bottom line losses for employers.

The term “absenteeism” refers to something other than the occasional sick or personal day. It’s defined as intentional and habitual missing of work for any number of reasons. Workplace stress, personal problems, and morale burnout can all contribute to an excess of absences and a loss of productivity. This in turn may lead to serious organizational issues, such as inadequate patient care, insufficient customer service, and longer project completion time.

Reduced employee morale

One of the least-talked-about aspects of absenteeism is reduced employee morale. A worker’s stress can increase when covering for an absent colleague. Poor management of absences often leads to a vicious cycle of rising stress levels that negatively affects morale and results in even more days of missed work.

The flip side of absenteeism is presenteeism, which happens when employees report to work without productively engaging, due to illness, distraction, or disinterest. These employees often don’t feel empowered to make a difference in their workplace. Presenteeism is actually thought to exceed absenteeism in terms of lost productivity and employer cost.

Engage and empower employees

The first line of defense in combating absenteeism is to engage and empower employees with their own schedules. Staff who have the ability to select when they’re available to work are more engaged, and absences decrease when employees have ownership of and responsibility for their time. Workforce management systems allow qualified workers to pick up shifts on the day, time, and location of their choosing.

In addition, keeping the lines of communication open — with fast delivery — between employees and managers is crucial. Email or even text messaging is an excellent way for last-minute needs to be communicated quickly. The sooner a manager knows about an upcoming absence, the faster it can be taken care of.

Workers who do require an absence need not put such a burden on their manager and colleagues. Implementing a solution that automates the filling of the shift while still keeping employees in the driver’s seat is important for morale.

Workforce management systems that offer this functionality save both time and money. When an absence comes up, managers can automatically send a message to all available, qualified, proximate workers who are not approaching overtime. The message conveys information about the available shift, and the first employee to respond takes it. Just like that, the absence is handled, and both employees — the absent one and the one covering — were empowered to manage their own schedules.

That’s the essence of effective absence management.

WorkSync offers leading absence management solutions for your organization. Visit us at WorkSync.com to learn more and request a demo.

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