What are the various reasons why employee attendance drops sharply?

Have you noticed a significant drop in employee attendance lately? Are a number of your team members increasingly calling in sick since you hired that new manager? Any number of factors can contribute to a person not wanting to come to work and as an employer, it falls to you to find out why. Employee engagement pros recently gave their take on what might be keeping your workers from showing up.

Michael Moran

Michael Moran

Michael Moran, Owner of Green Lion Search Group.

Four Catalysts for Increased Employee Absenteeism

1. They’re experiencing burnout.
Burnout leads to a number of symptoms that can reduce attendance. Mentally, they often lose engagement with their work and can start to dread coming into the workplace, contributing to tardiness and absenteeism. It also impacts immune system function, meaning they get sick more often, and can cause stress-related insomnia, making it more difficult for them to show up on time for their scheduled shifts.

2. They’re dealing with stressors or problems in their personal life.
You may want employees to leave their personal problems at the door, but they’re human beings, not robots, and if something significant is happening at home that can make it very hard for them to stay on top of their work schedule. This could be something overtly negative, like a death in the family or caring for a loved one in poor health, or something that’s arguably positive but is putting more demands on their time, like a new baby or searching for and buying a new home.

3. They’re in the process of searching for a new job.
When someone has made up their mind that they’re going to quit, it’s often much harder for them to see the point in being reliable—and they may stop feeling the need to “impress” their current employers since they’ll be leaving soon anyway. A job search is also a time-consuming process, and they may miss work time to go to interviews, job fairs, or other events related to this search.

4. They’re experiencing a conflict with a coworker or manager.
If someone is being bullied or harassed in the workplace, this can cause similar dread as suffering from burnout. They may intentionally avoid being there as much as they can to limit their exposure to the actor of this abuse or subconsciously increase absenteeism as a result of the trauma and emotional stress. Even conflicts that are more two-sided like a heated argument with a coworker or a clash of personality with a supervisor can cause increased absenteeism because it decreases the employee’s feelings of psychological safety.

The bottom line is, while absenteeism may be the result of someone simply being “lazy” or not caring about their work, more often it’s triggered by a life event or issue within the workplace. This is why it’s always a good idea to have a conversation with the employee and hear their side of the story before taking any disciplinary action, especially if they’re typically a strong worker and you want to keep them on your team.

Overwork and Burnout

If employees are constantly overworked, they are going to start to feel burnt out. That burnout can manifest in either exhaustion from the job or frustration at the company for making them work that way – both of which can lead to a drop in attendance. Even the employees who never take a day off will reach a point where they feel like they absolutely have to for their mental health.

Kyle MacDonald

Kyle MacDonald

Kyle MacDonald, Director of Operations, Force by Mojio.

Lattice Hudson

Lattice Hudson

Lattice Hudson, Founder of Lattice & Co and a Business Coach.

No Clear Attendance Management Plan or Policy

Many businesses either do not have an attendance management plan or have one that is obsolete. A lack of policy leads to erratic choices and, as a consequence, inconsistency. Attendance monitoring policies must meet certain legal standards, which vary depending on whether or not the organization is unionized.

An employer should establish and execute new attendance management programs and procedures or revise the ones already in place that are lawful and customized to the organization’s needs, attendance difficulties, and goals.

Without an attendance management plan, employees are more inclined to take days off. Companies need to be vigilant with both their rules and regulations and their implementation, so employees think twice before taking unnecessary days off.

During the pandemic, I realized I had more employees taking days off and calling in sick. As their employer, I was quick to assume that remote work was easier and that I’d have employees working harder now since it was more flexible and comfortable to do so.

Well, that eventually turned out to be a problem. Working harder and feeling pressured to work overtime because of remote work left my team members exhausted and burnt out. Excessive work, employees feeling like they couldn’t communicate their problems, and a lack of compassion on my part all contributed to their burnout. As you might expect, the pandemic has further exacerbated these issues, with increasing personal stress spilling over into the workplace.

Another factor influencing this was employees who didn’t have access to childcare services. These were mostly women who felt pressured to take on domestic responsibilities and ended up taking days off to take care of their kids.

The most devastating consequence of the pandemic was how many women’s careers were interrupted. This was in part due to insufficient childcare services, but mostly because of the unfair expectations our society holds of women being responsible for childcare instead of the man in the relationship.

Personal Problems

When an employee’s attendance suddenly and sharply drops off, especially independent of other work-related issues, the likeliest reason is that they are facing a major change in their personal life, such as an illness, a divorce or breakup, or the birth of a child. It’s essential to check in with employees when this happens, but your choices about what to do next are going to depend very much on that employee’s track record with the company and the nature of their absence.

Devon Fata

Devon Fata

Devon Fata, CEO of Pixoul.

Christiaan Huynen

Christiaan Huynen

Christiaan Huynen, CEO and founder of DesignBro.

COVID-19 Fears and Other Health Issues

With the pandemic still raging on, people are avoiding circumstances wherein they can catch the virus. I am hands-on with our HR department and this is the number one concern for absenteeism during this period. Health is a priority now, especially since most of our employees have children in their households. Remote work became our company’s alternative and attendance came close to pre-pandemic levels. It only proves that the fear of contracting Covid-19 is the top reason our employee attendance dropped.

Employees Undervalued, Unmotivated

If you have noticed an increase in your employee absenteeism, then you need to rethink the way you are managing your teams and what your expectations are. Absenteeism usually shoots up as employees lose motivation or feel undervalued in the business.

It’s possible that your workplace culture may not be as positive as you thought. And if an employee is missing work for reasons other than their health or family issues, then it’s going to start costing the business dearly in staff turnover and costs.

In extreme cases, there could be issues with sexual harassment or bullying. In this case, your management team and internal policies need to be re-evaluated.

In the long term, these issues are all manageable if you are willing to dedicate the time to nurture your company culture.

Garrett Hayes

Garrett Hayes

Garrett Hayes, Founder of Birdinghub.com.

Lynda Fairly

Lynda Fairly

Lynda Fairly, Co-founder, and Marketing at Numlooker.

Bullying and Low Workplace Morale

Employees usually avoid work when they feel harassed. To avoid this common reason for absenteeism, you need to ensure that you have an open-door policy and motivate your employees to report such bullying incidents. Therefore, it allows you to spot issues that could come into the limelight.

Low workplace morale
Nobody would like to continue working in an environment where conflict is omnipresent as it begets low workplace morale, which leads to reduced employee attendance. The significance of maintaining great employee morale in your company can’t be stressed enough. Treating every employee equally with respect and offering them the independence of making decisions is the cornerstone of a healthy work environment.

Low Job Satisfaction

Low job satisfaction is one of the biggest drivers of employee absenteeism. In my experience, when employees are motivated and feel good about their job and about being valued members of the organization, they will do what it takes to consistently show up to work.

There are many causes of low job satisfaction including micromanagement, the mismatch between the employees’ skills and interests, and their assigned work, lack of clear career advancement opportunities, etc.

Allowing employees to choose projects they want to be involved in, supporting them to map out clear career progression paths, and allowing them the independence to do their job without micromanagement can provide a sense of satisfaction in their job.

Workplace surveys and one-on-ones with employees can help unveil the reasons for low job satisfaction. Using this data, HR and management can create systems, processes, and an environment that allows employees to thrive.

Ben Lamarche

Ben Lamarche

Ben Lamarche, General Manager, Lock Search Group.

Chara Yadav

Chara Yadav

Chara Yadav, Press Director at AskAnyDifference.

Toxic or Disagreeable Work Environment

There are three that spring immediately to mind. The first is that employees are actively seeking new opportunities and are absenting themselves to either apply for new jobs or are attending job interviews, neither of which bodes well for the future of any business.

Secondly, it might be due to a toxic work environment or business culture which has driven them to the point where they no longer feel comfortable being in their place of employment, and as such are trying to actively avoid it as much as possible, which is a situation that needs to addressed, and remedied as soon as possible.

And lastly, if their job isn’t challenging enough, and can effectively be done in less time, then employees might feel as though they’re entitled to only be in the office or work environment for the time that it takes to do said job, which would explain the increased rate of employee absence. Again, it’s an issue that needs to be resolved as quickly as possible, and the work and time ratio fixed to ensure that it benefits both the business and its employees.

This is a crowdsourced article. Contributors' statements do not necessarily reflect the opinion of this website, other people, businesses, or other contributors.