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6 Ways to Deal With Employee Absenteeism


It’s no secret that frequently absent employees can cause setbacks for your company and staff. Although employee absenteeism may sometimes feel beyond your control, there are ways you can mitigate this problem from the source.


Employee absenteeism is more than just the occasional missed work day. Absenteeism refers to a pattern of habitual absence from work that cannot otherwise be excused. At first, absenteeism may seem innocuous. But, with time, it can easily snowball into lost profits, overworked coworkers, scheduling dilemmas, and an unreliable employee.

Set Clear Expectations

The first step to reining in employee absenteeism starts with establishing clear and realistic expectations. Communication is the key to efficiency in any workplace.  That philosophy also extends to attendance.

When creating an attendance policy, you must be very specific about the circumstances under which someone can have an excused absence. Sometimes employees miss work due to illness or personal issues – in these instances, some patience is in order. However, you must draw the line between seldom, excusable absences and unacceptable absences.

Writing down a formal attendance policy can help as well. Doing so puts those rules into real, tangible terms. Terms that can be referred back to at any time. This prevents you from falling into a “he said, she said” argument with employees regarding attendance standards later down the line.

Once you’ve established and recorded a formal attendance policy, you can distribute that document to your employees to make them aware of the recent changes. It may also add a layer of accountability if you encourage employees to sign these documents. This way, if there are problems later on, you can refer to the document and the terms that they actually already agreed to.

Identify the Root Cause

There are many causes of employee absenteeism. And, there’s only one way to find out which one is afflicting your employees – communication. Sit down with employees who have experienced habitual absenteeism. Begin to discuss the situation in private to get a better understanding of why this pattern has persisted.

Some of the most common causes of employee absenteeism include:

  • Illness/Mental Health
  • Unpleasant Work Community
  • Family Issues
  • Feeling Unappreciated
  • Commute Issues
  • Burnout

Whatever the reason behind your employee’s absenteeism, try to be understanding and supportive. Even if you’re frustrated and have the urge to lash out, try to maintain composure and focus on remedying the problem. Yelling at an employee for absences in an unprofessional manner won’t help anyone.


Offer Flexibility

If your employee struggles with attendance for a reason that is beyond their control or due to circumstances that cannot be changed, you may have to be willing to adapt your expectations.

For example, if your employee is a caregiver for someone in their home, they may have less than perfect attendance due to prioritizing that person’s care. In this situation, some leniency might be in order. Alternatively, adjusting someone’s schedule can help make it easier for them to show up more consistently.

Beyond that, including flexibility within your company’s attendance policy can be helpful too. For instance, allowing a certain number of permissible absences, while it seems counter-intuitive, can come across as lenient and understanding, and employees respond to that.

If your attendance policy is somewhat laidback and allows a certain amount of absences, employees will typically do whatever they can not to reach that number, because it could potentially jeopardize their position and reputation. This way, employees don’t have to stress about an occasional sick day, but can remain accountable for other times they miss work.

Additionally, having the option to sit down with an employee and warn them that their absences are reaching the company limit can be a great opportunity to start a dialogue about attendance issues before they become drastic.


Monitor Attendance Regularly

Tracking employee attendance can go a long way in preventing excessive absences. If attendance is already recorded and you’re still noticing absenteeism, try setting up a whiteboard in a public room of the workspace. 

Use this whiteboard as an attendance tracker for a set period, like a month or a week. By tracking everyone’s attendance publicly, you’re incentivizing your employees to show up regularly to avoid being “called out” by the whiteboard. To prevent anyone from abusing it or changing details, keep a copy of those numbers on a separate sheet of paper in a safe place.

When employees are held actively accountable for their attendance, it leaves little room for excuses and slip-ups. Additionally, making attendance information public can contribute to creating a “social standard” between employees.


Recognize and Reward Good Attendance

To encourage consistent attendance, you should make a point to recognize and reward those who have excellent attendance. One way to do this is to announce someone’s impeccable attendance in a group setting. Another method is to devise attendance awards that can be distributed at company events.

In recent studies, industry leaders observed that rewarding consistent attendance is just as effective in preventing absenteeism as implementing penalties for absences. Here are some ways you can reward excellent attendance:

  • Attendance Awards
  • Cash Bonus
  • Gift Cards
  • Additional PTO
  • Raise in Wages
  • Longer/Additional Breaks
  • Off-Site Events and Celebrations
  • Commemorative Merchandise


Improve Workplace Culture

Although it’s not always the case, employee absenteeism can sometimes be explained by poor workplace culture. When employees are often at odds with coworkers or management, it can create tension and hostility – and no one wants to work in an environment like that. 

Sometimes, when employees struggle socially at work, they may avoid coming in altogether. Or, they may need more mental health days away from their source of stress. In these situations, it’s wise to intervene before the disputes become overwhelming. Setting up a private, peaceful mediation can resolve some of the core differences between both parties.  And, hopefully, make coming to work less stressful.

If there is minimal workplace drama taking place, you should still make an effort to create a peaceful and productive workplace culture, as this offers benefits in the way of preventing absenteeism as well. For example, raising wages in the workplace has been proven to reduce absences over time.

Although few people are fortunate enough to be excited about their job every day, with the right workplace culture it can be possible. Implement social strategies and team-building exercises to encourage your employees to work together and have fun. When your employees look forward to the day ahead, it motivates them to get to work on time every single day.


Workplace absenteeism creates chaos and stress for everyone involved, and can even result in lost profits and productivity. Strategize using these methods to prevent unexplained absences and encourage employees to come in for work eager to start their day. 

Ari Bratsis
Team Writer: Ari is a writer, blogger and small business owner based in Washington state.

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Find Your Way · Grow Your Business · Leading Your Team · Productivity

Team Writer: Ari is a writer, blogger and small business owner based in Washington state.

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