8 Hidden reasons for workplace absenteeism

Is your department, division or organisation suffering from terminal absenteeism? It’s an illness that strikes nearly every business, leaving it weak at the margins and down in the mouth. “Normal” absenteeism claims more days lost per year than strike action. Costs are difficult to quantify. Employers also need to consider the costs of supplementary or replacement workers. These costs include:

  • Regular wages, overtime and company benefits
  • Supplementary benefits and replacement staff costs
  • Administration of recruitment, selection, induction and training
  • Penalty costs resulting from delays
  • Demoralising effect on the rest of the staff.

Absenteeism also has less tangible costs. It forces managers to deal with problems of morale, discipline, job dissatisfaction, job stress, team spirit, productivity, turnover, production quality, additional administration and overheads.

The hidden cause of absenteeism

The causes of absenteeism are complex, but AWOP (Absent Without Permission) most often results from:

  • Poor management and the non-existence or non-application of preventative measures (“you get the absenteeism you deserve”)
  • The absence of tools to identify and measure the causes of absenteeism within the organisation
  • The incapacity to provide the necessary employee support
  • A lack of interest with regard to the problem
  • A culture of reluctant management or reluctant managers
  • The absence of an employee communication programme
  • A deficient work culture
  • Low employee morale.

Absenteeism in the workplace is without doubt one of the most difficult aspects to manage. The reason? The problem of absenteeism is not properly monitored and is ignored by supervisors on the basis that employees won’t get paid for the day, anyway.

Organisational problems behind absenteeism

Does your company facilitate – or debilitate – your own attempts to decrease absenteeism? Do you subconsciously do the same? These are legitimate questions because:

  • Companies do not appoint people who have identical personalities.
  • Positions and personnel differ.
  • Policies and techniques that greatly influence a career engineer may not affect a less ambitious personality. If your policies and techniques are in keeping with your people, keep them up.
  • Situations may change faster than policies. Many of us refuse to adapt current programmes until we only have perceived benefit of hindsight.
  • Anti-absenteeism attempts may be based on incorrect assumptions.
  • An AWOP programme probably won’t reduce absenteeism if the average employee is entirely dependent on inadequate transport.
  • Peer pressure will not work if there is no peer fear or cohort support.
  • Actions may speak louder than words.

Do you have an AWOP strategy in place?

On a comparative basis, think about the “broken windows” analogy popularised by Harvard Professors James Wilson and George Kelling: If a broken window in a neighbourhood is left unrepaired, all the windows will be broken in due course and the entire area will deteriorate. In order to prevent vandalism and more serious crime from escalating, the window needs to be fixed!

It is with this in mind that Knowledge Resources has published a new book on absenteeism entitled: ATTACKING ABSENTEEISM by Jan Kemp Nel. This book:

  • Investigates the problems of absenteeism
  • Demonstrates how to create a work environment conducive to good attendance
  • Gives step-by-step procedures to reduce absenteeism
  • Provides for a basic toolkit to fight absenteeism effectively.

The appropriate solutions for each business differ. A selection is offered and many strategies can be applied departmentally once the causes are identified, without involving top management. To learn more about this new book – click here now. Or if you would like to attend our Absenteeism Workshop on the 14 May 2014 at the Ballywoods Office Park, Bryanston, Johannesburg – click here. The goal of this workshop is to analyse the causes of absenteeism, the impact on the workplace, and guidelines on how to manage absenteeism.
Jan Kemp Nel ((BA) (LLB) (University of Pretoria); Dipl LR (UNISA)) has developed and introduced procedures and systems designed for optimal quality in Industrial Relations in all areas of industry, commerce, public service and agriculture. He has extensive experience of Industrial Relations and Labour Law, in which he has been specialising over the last 30 years.


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