Absenteeism is an employee’s intentional or habitual absence from work. While employers expect workers to miss a certain number of workdays each year, excessive absences can equate to decreased productivity and can have a major effect on company finances, morale and other factors. This article looks at the causes of absenteeism, the costs of lost productivity and what employers can do to reduce absenteeism rates in the workplace.
Causes of Absenteeism
People miss work for a variety of reasons, many of which are legitimate and others less so. Some of the common causes of absenteeism include (but are not limited to):
- Bullying and harassment – Employees who are bullied or harassed by coworkers and/or bosses are more likely to call in sick to avoid the situation
- Burnout, stress and low morale – Heavy workloads, stressful meetings/presentations and feelings of being unappreciated can cause employees to avoid going into work. Personal stress (outside of work) can lead to absenteeism.
- Childcare and eldercare – Employees may be forced to miss work in order to stay home and take care of a child/elder when normal arrangements have fallen through (for example, a sick caregiver or a snow day at school) or if a child/elder is sick.
- Depression – According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the leading cause of absenteeism in the United States is depression. Depression can lead to substance abuse if people turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate their pain or anxiety.
- Disengagement – Employees who are not committed to their jobs, coworkers and/or the company are more likely to miss work simply because they have no motivation to go.
- Illness – Injuries, illness and medical appointments are the most commonly reported reasons for missing work (though not always the actual reason). Not surprisingly, each year during the cold and flu season, there is a dramatic spike in absenteeism rates for both full-time and part-time employees.
- Injuries – Accidents can occur on the job or outside of work, resulting in absences. In addition to acute injuries, chronic injuries such as back and neck problems are a common cause of absenteeism.
- Job hunting – Employees may call in sick to attend a job interview, visit with a headhunter or work on their resumes/CVs.
- Partial shifts – Arriving late, leaving early and taking longer breaks than allowed are considered forms of absenteeism and can affect productivity and workplace morale.