Solving for Absenteeism

When your employees do not show up for work it is frustrating, more importantly it can cost you productivity and money. Many businesses struggle with absenteeism, but few do anything about it. Those who keep metrics on absenteeism typically look at time lost (number of days missed in a period divided by the total number of work days in the period) or frequency (number of inceptions of absence in a period divided by the total number of work days in a period). These measures are simple but crude attempts to quantify the problem. Consequentially, employers chalk up absenteeism to lazy or ungrateful employees and try to solve the problem by reprimanding or replacing staff.

However, if employers do not address the root cause of the issues that lead to absenteeism, the problem just creeps up again. Employees generally skip work for one or more reasons, which include:

  • Health concerns, which may include serious medical conditions but could also be caused by addictions, chronic untreated pain, depression, or a combination of these.
  • Caring for family members such as children, parents, or siblings who require the employee’s attention due to illness or other issues.
  • Working conditions such as physically demanding or unsafe working environments.
  • Bullying or harsh treatment from supervisors or co-workers.
  • Prioritizing other interests such as hobbies or family over their job.

When working with clients who are attempting to remedy absenteeism issues, we work to understand the root cause of the issue by using forensic analysis techniques. For instance, we may correlate absences with employee health insurance claims to determine if employee or family member health concerns are a cause. In other cases, we mine unstructured data such as email, safety reports, and performance reviews to identify unsatisfactory working conditions. In some cases, we even utilize open source data from social networks. All of this is done to get to the root causes that cause absenteeism.

Once we know the root causes, we set a baseline and utilize a model to predict future absenteeism considering the known conditions. Then steps can be taken to rectify the issues, such as:

  • Employee health and wellness programs
  • Childcare benefits
  • Eldercare benefits
  • Workplace anti-bullying and anti-harassment training and monitoring
  • Workplace safety audits and remediation
  • Job design assessment
  • Compressed work schedules
  • Flexible working hours
  • Job and career enrichment programs
  • Job and pay satisfaction assessment and remediation

We measure the success of our efforts by monitoring ongoing absenteeism against the baseline and the changes in the predictive measures of future absenteeism.

Left unaddressed, absenteeism can lead to job stress, burnout, and turnover. Addressing absenteeism not only increases employee productivity in the short-term, but has long-term benefits from the workplace improvements that are implemented to treat the issue. This not only decreases turnover and attrition, but creates incentives that make it easier to recruit new employees.