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5 ways to reduce absenteeism at your office

Is your company doing all it can to mitigate unexpected absences?

When an employee is unable to perform their duties at work and must take time away, the business also feels the impact from their absence. Impacts on the team, department or organization at large can add up quickly. However, by using the right proactive approach, you can achieve some significant savings.

According to Statistics Canada, absenteeism rates have been on the rise in recent years, jumping from an average of 8.8 days lost per worker per year in 2014 to 9.5 days in 2016. That extra average time away is significant. According to Benefits Canada, reducing absenteeism by just one day per year could result in savings of about 22.7 per cent for the organization.

The company isn’t the only one impacted. Whether it’s due to illness, family priorities, mental health or other personal issues, every lost day can also have an impact on the employee themselves and their co-workers. Here are five ways to reduce absenteeism at your workplace.

1. Consider flexibility in working hours

Reducing office absenteeism

Sometimes we get burnt out, overwhelmed with personal responsibilities or struggle to find the right motivation. A little extra flexibility can go a long way, and staff may need a day working from home to recharge the batteries or take care of personal responsibilities.

That flexibility, even for a couple of hours on a very occasional day, could help an employee deal with an overwhelming schedule or gain a little extra time to focus on certain tasks. According to a recent article in The Guardian, flexible working arrangements can be a useful offering to increase productivity, loyalty and engagement while reducing absenteeism.

2. Establish an employee assistance program

Every single Canadian will experience challenging moments in their life, and when those moments inevitably arise, some have no choice but to take a leave of absence to deal with personal issues. In that state, the workplace is the last place they may want to be, but providing employee assistance programs (EAP) can assist.

With an EAP, employees can receive short-term, confidential counselling services to help deal with personal problems that might affect their work performance. Not only does this resource increase the mental health of staff and reduce absenteeism, but it can also significantly improve employee engagement.

3. Recognize positive attendance records

Reducing office absenteeism

You might consider recognizing staff members who maintain excellent attendance, as they could be saving significant business costs over time. Shout-outs and positive words can make these employees feel even more dedicated and assured.

For example, providing a formal thanks at the annual holiday party can recognize their presence throughout the year and encourage a culture of teamwork and positivity. Or you could formalize a rewards and recognition program to encourage employees to hit certain milestones. Programs like Achievers go beyond attendance to promote higher engagement, productivity, performance and retention, and offer gifts and experiences that employees can choose from a marketplace.

4. Review paid time off

If your employees are unable to properly perform their duties for unexpected reasons, this may also be a sign that there is something askew in their work-life balance. Though providing staff with the option to take a few more days off comes with costs of its own, predictable absences are much less costly than absenteeism. They may also provide co-workers adequate warning to receive extra training or prep their schedules to help cover other responsibilities.

Alternatively, providing some additional time off during slow periods or around holidays (such as a half-day before a long-weekend) can give staff the time they need for themselves while reducing costly unplanned absences.

5. Help employees get back to work

Reducing office absenteeism

After an unplanned absence, employees often feel somewhat removed from their work lives, and returning to business as usual can sometimes feel like a daunting task of its own. As a result, employers can help bring employees back from absences faster by easing that transition.

That may involve letting the employee work from home before returning to the office, getting a lightened work-load on their first days back or pointing them towards resources that can help them recover from injury, illness, mental health issues, family trauma or other causes of absence.


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Jared Lindzon

Jared Lindzon is a freelance journalist based in Toronto, covering a variety of topics, including technology, careers, entrepreneurship, politics and music. His work regularly appears in major publications in Canada, the United States and around the world, including the Globe and Mail, Fast Company, Fortune Magazine, Rolling Stone, Politico, the Guardian and more.

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