Staff absenteeism“I’m not coming into work today.” – six words a manager or anyone in human resources dreads.

Staff absenteeism means that managers need to spring into action to find a suitably skilled, temporary replacement if needed. This could also mean that staff in existing teams may be reassigned to other teams to manage production or “fill in” for a coworker.

There are many reasons that staff miss work and companies must concede that many are legitimate while others not so much. Staff could miss work on certain days due to a number of reasons: sick leave paid vacation days, and childcare or, as is also becoming more common, taking care of elderly parents or relatives.

Then there are the ‘off days’ that really impact a company’s bottom line and cause a downward trend as it relates to productivity. These can include low morale due to burnout and stress (think: feelings of being unappreciated, stressful projects etc.); and disengagement (think: staff not feeling recognised, or committed to the company and their assigned tasks). As a result, these missed days could likely be used to pursue other job opportunities.  

According to studies by Occupational Care South Africa (OCSA), absenteeism costs South Africa’s economy an estimated R12 -R16 billion per year.

This means that approximately 15% of South African workers are absent on any given day.

It’s then not surprising that staff absenteeism is one of the single most expensive issues affecting companies.

Some studies have even estimated that South African companies lose up to 17% of their payroll with the average absenteeism rate per worker running between eight and 15 days per year. To understand this figure better just imagine an office with 50 staff each being absent for eight to 15 days each year – that’s between 400 and 750 productive days lost.

As an employer, it’s important that you understand the effects that staff absenteeism has on the bottom line. According to Gallup’s article: Employee Engagement: How to Build a High Performance Workforce, staff who are engaged and motivated take fewer sick days per year: 2.69 (for engaged staff) and 6.19 (disengaged staff).


How staff absenteeism really impacts companies:


1. A decrease in productivity:

Unplanned leave is disruptive for everyone in the company. Every time your staff don’t turn up for work it has a big impact on productivity. Absent staff means that tasks have to be delegated to others in the company, and at times, overtime or double has to be paid just to keep up. Depending on the skill level of the absent staff member, companies may find a drop in quality that could Staff absenteeismalso result in a decrease in customer satisfaction. Critical tasks are also affected when your staff are absent. Staff who are overloaded may not be able to get to their work and this also brings down productivity levels and can affect your bottom line.


2. A decrease in company morale:

High absenteeism in companies can affect company morale. While it is difficult to put statistics to it, animosity can quickly escalate amongst the reliable staff who do show up for work. Because they now have to absorb extra responsibilities on top of their existing workload, it could result in low engagement and an increase in turnover that further digs into the company’s bottom line.

When your staff don’t show up for work, it could be for various reasons. However, if left unchecked repeated absences can impact customer satisfaction levels, delay important projects and is probably a symptom of an underlying issue like staff disengagement or workplace dissatisfaction.

So just how can companies solve their absenteeism problem?

Research has revealed that proactive action such as fostering a culture of engagement could help with this. Staff engagement can cultivate sustainable behaviour change for staff who stay away from work because of disengagement.

Encourage your workforce to take regular vacations to prevent burnout and implement flexible hours or work-from-home days. By showing your workforce that you care about them holistically you can engage the ‘whole person’. This further supports mental and physical well-being for your staff and company.

Engaged staff show discretionary effort because they care more and are aligned to the company’s values. As a result, they are more productive, take fewer sick days, are more loyal to their employers and deliver better customer experiences. This leads to more satisfied customers – this, in turn, drives sales and ultimately the bottom line.

Most people think absenteeism ‘is what it is’ – but staff absenteeism that occurs frequently will hurt your bottom line as illustrated earlier in this article.  It could be hurting your company more than you realise.

Get your workforce engaged: If you want a healthy bottom line, you’re going to need happy, engaged staff.

Are you struggling with staff absenteeism? Do you need help with engaging your staff? Contact us, we’ll be happy to help set your workplace on the right track.

Staff absenteeism

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