Managers can effectively manage employee absences

how can managers manage employee absences (1)


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Paid Time Off and Absence Management

Do you know what the leading cause of employee absences?


Employee absence is referred to as absenteeism. Absence management is the ability to manage employee absences and to help employees return to work well and functional as quickly as possible. It includes managing the existing workload to compensate for the missing employee. It can include re-assigning projects, hiring temporary workers, or calling employees to fill a shift.

How much does your company lose?

Forbes estimates that absent employees cost employers $3,600 per year, per hourly employee. (The cost for a salaried employee averages $2,650.) The CDC estimates that lost productivity caused by employee absenteeism costs companies $225 Billion each year.

The cost of absent employees is manifest in many ways including:

  • Wages to absent employees
  • Higher cost for replacement workers as manifest in temporary employees, overtime wages, or managers subbing in a shift.
  • Administrative costs of administering absences
  • Poor quality of service or goods resulting from fatigue or understaffing
  • Reduced productivity
  • Excessive manager time
  • Safety issues
  • Poor morale
  • Catching up after an absence

Completely eliminating absenteeism is not feasible. In fact, often another problem presents itself when absenteeism is overmanaged: presenteeism. Presenteeism is when employees work despite health or other issues and their productivity drops. It can cause illnesses to spread through the office. Both absenteeism and presenteeism cost employers in money and in lost productivity.

What Causes Employee Absenteeism?

Did you know?

Depression is the primary cause of employee absences. But, there are other reasons. These reasons include workplace harassment, burnout and stress, and low engagement. It includes childcare or elderly care issues, illnesses, injuries, and chronic health problems such as asthma or PMS. It includes job hunting and partial shifts.

  • Depression: The leading cause according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Depression can be a result of other life stresses or health conditions and can piggyback with other causes of absenteeism.
  • Workplace bullying or harassment: Employees are more likely to call in sick to avoid a negative situation where they are harassed or bullied by coworkers or a manager.
  • Burnout and low morale: Employees with heavy workloads and stressful meetings or constant deadlines are at higher risk of burnout. Additionally, feelings of being unappreciated decrease morale.
  • Disengagement: Employees who disengage with their employment are much more likely to be absent that engaged employees. They lack the motivation to go to work and as a result, smaller excuses become a “great reason” to miss work.
  • Stress: Both personal and professional stress contributes to absences. Employees approaching a wedding or going through a divorce often have higher levels of stress. Additionally, the health or welfare of family members or close friends can increase employee stress. There are many causes of stress on employees.
  • Illness: Sickness, illness, and medical appointments are the most commonly reported reasons for missing work. They are not always the actual reason for an absence. Flu and cold season often bring spikes in worker absences.
  • Injuries: Accidents and acute injuries are a common reason employees miss work. Acute injuries such as chronic back pain can also be a common cause.
  • Childcare and eldercare: Employees often miss work due to childcare changes when normal arrangements fall through. This could be caused by a sick child, a school holiday or snow day, or a sick caregiver.
  • Job Hunting: Employees may call in sick to work when they have job interviews or are working on their resumes.

Five on the nine reasons listed above are affected by work factors. Although stress can be personal or professional so it is not entirely determined by the work environment.

The good news?

There are many actions that you can take to improve your absence management. These steps have a side benefit of often increasing employee retention.  

Remote Working

Only 7% of workers surveyed by Flexjobs believe that they are most productive in the office. Office politics, distractions, or the inability to optimize work environments could all be factors. Studies have confirmed that employees tend to be more productive when they work from home. Technology makes it easier than ever before for employees to access employer systems and contribute to meetings and projects.

If remote working sounds scary to you, know that remote working doesn’t mean no management. Software such as Zoom, GoToMeeting, and Google Hangouts allows remote employees to participate in meetings and face to face communication. Chat software allows for constant communication. Project management software such as Slack provides a central place for project communication, updates, and statuses.

Remote working will allow employees recovering from illnesses or injury to work from home, even if they aren’t up to a full shift at the office. It also allows more flexibility around FMLA and other leaves.

For example, an employee who takes time off for FMLA may not want to return to work for several months. However, if remote working is an option, then the employee may want to return when working from home is an option.

Managers can make sure that remote working is optimized by continuing communication with remote employees. It is important to keep them updated with work changes and directions. It is also important to stay abreast of the projects they are working on. Finally, it is important that managers maintain the same availability and support for remote employees that they provide for employees working from the office.

  1. Maintain communication with remote employees
  2. Set goals and understand the projects remote employees are involved in
  3. Be available for support as much as for employees working on-site

You should be aware that Swipeclock’s software allows employees to log in for work using biometric clocks, mobile apps, geo time clocks, and other software. This makes it easy for managers to see when employees login for work and track employee hours.

Flexible Scheduling

Flexible scheduling is one of the most important benefits employees look for. One recent study showed that 80% of applicants place flexible scheduling as the most important benefit they seek. As a result, employers who offer some flexibility in scheduling tend to retain employees better and maintain a higher morale.

There’s another benefit: Compliance. Many local scheduling laws require employers to take employee scheduling preferences into account. These laws force what could be a beneficial practice for employers, especially those not forced into compliance.

Employers can offer flexible scheduling by allowing employees to input their schedules and preferred times to work into the employee portal. Managers can then schedule around employee preferences. Another option is to give employees even more flexibility by setting guidelines such as the required number of hours. Managers can require that employees work specific periods, but allow the rest of the shift to be determined by the employee.

For example, your employees may need to be to work for a department meeting at 11:00 am, but some may choose to start work at 5:00 AM and be done after the meeting, while others may show up at 10:00 am and work until 7:00 pm. This gives employees the ability to better manager personal obligations and stress factors. It also provides a way for employees to work during their peak performance period, which optimizes productivity.  

  • Provides employees flexibilities in dealing with life stresses and family obligations
  • Allows employees to work during their peak performance times
  • Flex schedules are the #1 employee benefit desired
  • Employees can input preferred schedules and submit for manager approval

Return to Work Interviews

After an employee has been absent, a return to work interview is a great way you to connect with your employee. It can be a formal interview or a short interview, depending on the length of the absence.

During a return to work interview, you can welcome the employee back and express concern for what caused the absence, whether it is illness or a family matter.

Additionally, you can update your absent employee The interview provides a way for the manager to update employees after an absence regarding current projects, customer requests and other issues that arose. It also provides a way for employees to know that absences are noticed.

Employees can explain in person what caused their absence. This can foster greater honesty and openness. Managers can then provide support for employees and be apprised of potential future needs of the employee that will allow them to better plan.

Health and Wellness Program

Many employers are adopting health and wellness programs to manage absenteeism. These programs can include “points” or refunds for employees who participate in exercise or yoga plans, maintain up-to-date preventative care, or participate in health wellness education.

It can also include benefits such as providing a free or on-location flu shot to any employees who wish to take advantage of it.

Wellness programs can include educating employees about how to better manage chronic health conditions such as back pain, asthma, depression, or Gastroesophageal problems. Better behavior by employees helps to lead to a lower incidence of chronic illness.

Wellness programs can have another advantage: in addition to helping to mitigate preventable absences, they can also reduce healthcare costs for employers.

Don’t forget!

Wellness programs also help to combat presenteeism. Employees who come to work with chronic pain or other health issues are able to better manage those problems through wellness programs. That increases the productivity of present employees and helps them to be absent due to illness fewer times.

  • Employees with better health behaviors have lower rates of absenteeism
  • Employees who can control their stress have lower absenteeism
  • Employees with healthy cholesterol, blood pressure, and glucose have lower absenteeism
  • Employees with healthy body weights have lower absenteeism
  • Employees with better health habits perform at higher productivity

Smarter Scheduling

Flexible scheduling, remote work, wellness programs, and return-to-work interviews are all helpful tools for managing employee absences. But, without good software, those tools become less effective.

A good scheduling platform (such as Swipeclock’s) provides a way for managers to track absences, quickly plan for employee substitutions, and communicate with employees. Managers can quickly see which employees are approaching overtime limits, which ones are on reduced schedule leaves, and which ones have requested extra hours. Additionally, employees can submit preferences to managers and can even request shift swapping, which makes replacing a sick employee even easier.

Swipelock’s scheduling software integrates seamlessly with an employee self-service portal, which allows employees to also access and participate in wellness programs.

In addition Timeworks plus allows you to measure, analyze and plan better.

  • Measure
  • Analyze
  • Plan

Measure employee absences

The ability to accurately measure employee absences is critical to identifying or addressing any chronic issues in your company. Data is centralized, stored, and secure for easy access.

Data and facts make it easier to manage specific employees with chronic absences and take away the emotional bias that often exists in employee-employer relationships.

Analyze employee absence trends

Swipeclock data provides valuable reports and tools. Data can be exported to spreadsheets for analysis. Absence data can be collected across departments, locations, or for specific employees. Use the data to compare other organizations in the industry.

This can highlight trouble areas and show productivity gaps. It makes it easier to analyze your workforce gaps.

Plan for effectively for absenteeism

Build a plan for employee absences. Use your employee policy as a guide. Incorporate triggers and alerts into the system so managers are alerted when absence thresholds are triggered.

There are days or weeks when you spend most of your time putting out fires. Alerts help managers to realize that absence triggers are occurring and to effectively deal with them in a timely manner.

Don’t forget that part of your absence management plan needs to include information around FMLA and other local leave laws. Otherwise, managers that pressure employees to come to work despite legal leave out the company at risk. Likewise, managers should be constantly aware of any language an employee uses that would indicate a leave due to FMLA reasons.


Employee absence management is vital to your organization’s productivity. But, it isn’t about pressuring employees to come to work. Instead, absence management includes providing employers and managers with the tools to effectively reduce absences and to cover absence shifts.

Simplify HR management today.

Simplify HR management today.


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