HR Mavericks

Eddy’s HR Mavericks Encyclopedia

Explore the multifaceted issue of absenteeism in the workplace, its impact on productivity and employee morale, and the strategies organizations can employ to reduce its occurrence.

What Is Absenteeism?

Absenteeism refers to an employee's habitual or frequent absence from work without valid reasons, justification, or notification. Absenteeism can be voluntary or involuntary, and there can be numerous contributing factors. The specific criteria for determining what qualifies as habitual or frequent absenteeism varies depending on the company's policies and industry standards. For example, in labor-intensive industries, it is common to see stricter policies that limit unexcused absences to two days or less before an employee is terminated. It is especially important for organizations and HR leaders to define and communicate their attendance policies in both an employee handbook and perhaps verbally during orientation.

How to Measure Absenteeism

Effectively measuring absenteeism is crucial for understanding its prevalence and impact within an organization. Various methods can be employed to track and assess absenteeism rates, allowing for data-driven decision-making and targeted interventions. It's important to note that each organization is unique, and the methods used to measure absenteeism vary depending on specific needs and goals. Here are two commonly used methods for tracking absenteeism.

Absenteeism Rate

Calculating the absenteeism rate can be done by dividing the total number of days absent by the total possible workdays for a specific period, usually a month or a year. Multiply the result by 100 to get the absenteeism rate as a percentage. Absenteeism Rate (%) = (Total days absent / Total possible workdays) × 100 Example: Tory has been a good but sometimes unreliable worker during his first six months at Acme, Inc. He is prone to missing shifts on Fridays because his younger sister needs childcare after school and his parents are not available on Friday afternoons. Since he began work, he has missed a total of nine days, all Fridays. His absenteeism rate is: (9 days absent / 120 workdays scheduled) * 100 = 7.5%. Tory has missed 7.5% of possible workdays. Interpreting the absenteeism rate and determining an acceptable rate for your company depends on various factors such as industry norms, company size, and organizational culture. There is no one-size-fits-all acceptable rate, but organizations can use benchmarking to compare their rates internally from one department to another, or externally against industry averages or competitors, to identify potential issues. The Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks this information annually. To use the absenteeism rate effectively, organizations should:
  • Monitor absenteeism throughout the year to identify trends or fluctuations over time.
  • Analyze the data to help understand which specific departments, teams, or individuals have a high absenteeism rates.
  • Investigate the underlying causes of absenteeism, such as job dissatisfaction, health concerns, or workplace conflicts.
  • Develop targeted interventions to address the identified causes, such as altering workplace policies or offering support resources such as an Employee Assistance Program.
As organizations become more flexible or switch to hybrid or remote work plans, it can be difficult to know when to intervene with employees you feel may be exhibiting higher levels of absenteeism. In such cases, tracking attendance patterns and maintaining open communication with employees can help identify potential issues early on. That, coupled with a supportive and understanding environment, can better address absenteeism concerns and develop tailored solutions for remote or hybrid workers.

Bradford Factor

The Bradford Factor is a formula that helps organizations identify employees with frequent short-term absences, which can be more disruptive than occasional long-term absences. The formula, which considers 12 months, is: Bradford Factor = S² × D Where S is the number of separate absences and D is the total number of days absent within a given period. Example: Jordan has been with Acme, Inc. for a year. She is considered to be a great contributor during steady times, but she has developed a reputation for missing too much work when the pace and intensity of work picks up. She has missed 12 days across five separate instances of being absent. Her Bradford Factor is: (5² instances of absenteeism x 12 days missed) = 300 The Bradford Factor is useful in uncovering patterns of absenteeism by emphasizing the frequency of absences over the duration. Frequent, short-term absences can be more disruptive to an organization than infrequent, longer-term absences because they may indicate potential underlying issues or abuse of the attendance policy. There is no universal acceptable Bradford Factor score, as it varies depending on the organization's policies and industry standards. However, some organizations use a points-based system to determine when intervention is necessary. Here is an example scale.
  • 0-49 points: Acceptable level of absence
  • 50-124 points: Cause for concern, warranting a conversation with the employee
  • 125-399 points: May require a formal meeting and investigation into the reasons for absences
  • 400+ points: Indicates a serious issue that may require disciplinary action or further support

Why Is Absenteeism Harmful?

Absenteeism harms organizations and employees for several reasons and can lead to many negative consequences. Below are a few prominent examples.
  • Decreased productivity. Frequent absences can lead to a decline in overall productivity as tasks are left uncompleted or must be redistributed among other employees.
  • Increased costs. Employers may incur additional expenses related to hiring temporary staff, overtime pay, or lost revenue due to reduced productivity.
  • Lower employee morale. Absenteeism can lead to a decline in team morale. Colleagues may feel overburdened or resentful when they must cover for absent coworkers.
  • Reduced employee engagement. Frequent absences may weaken an employee's commitment to their job and the organization, leading to further absenteeism or even turnover.

Root Causes of Absenteeism

There are a number of potential root causes for employee absenteeism.
Illness, injury, or chronic health conditions can lead to absenteeism. Workplace conditions sometimes contribute to health problems, such as high stress levels or exposure to hazardous materials.

Personal and Family Responsibilities

Employees may need to take time off work to attend to personal or family matters, such as child or elder care, family emergencies, or legal issues.

Job Dissatisfaction

Discontent with one's job, including poor management, lack of recognition, and insufficient compensation can result in employees seeking time off work as a coping mechanism.

Workplace Culture

An unhealthy work environment, such as excessive workload, lack of flexibility, or poor relationships with colleagues can lead to absenteeism.

Mental Health

Mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, or burnout can contribute to an employee's absence from work.

How to Manage and Reduce Absenteeism

The specific cause of an individual’s absenteeism partially dictates the response required. However, it is essential to apply company policy uniformly and without bias.

Develop Clear Attendance Policies

Establishing guidelines on acceptable attendance and the consequences of absenteeism helps employees understand expectations and discourages habitual absences.

Promote a Healthy Work Environment

Encourage wellness initiatives (such as physical and mental health resources or promoting work/life balance) to support employee wellbeing and reduce the likelihood of health-related absences.

Address Workplace Issues

Actively addressing job dissatisfaction, workplace conflicts, and other factors contributing to absenteeism can create a more positive work environment and reduce the occurrence of absences.

Provide Flexibility

Offering flexible work arrangements such as remote work or flexible hours can help employees better manage personal and professional responsibilities, reducing the need for absences.

Monitor and Analyze Absenteeism Data

Regularly tracking and analyzing attendance data helps identify patterns, address underlying causes, and implement targeted interventions to manage and reduce absenteeism.

Best Practices for Managing Absenteeism for Remote and Hybrid Workforces

Managing absenteeism in remote and hybrid work models requires tailored strategies that address the unique challenges and opportunities presented by these work arrangements. Here are some best practices for managing absenteeism in remote and hybrid workforces.

Establish Clear Expectations and Communication

Define attendance expectations for remote and hybrid employees, including work hours, availability, and response times. Ensure that communication channels and tools are in place to keep employees connected, informed, and engaged.

Implement Flexible Work Arrangements

Offering flexibility in work schedules or allowing employees to choose their preferred work location can help them balance personal and professional responsibilities, ultimately reducing the likelihood of absenteeism.

Monitor and Track Attendance

Use digital tools and software to track employee attendance, work hours, and productivity. Regular monitoring can help identify patterns of absenteeism and address potential issues early on.

Foster a Supportive Work Culture

Encourage a culture of trust, open communication, and support. This includes addressing mental health concerns, providing resources for self-care, and encouraging employees to take breaks and prioritize their well-being.

Provide Professional Development Opportunities

Remote and hybrid employees may feel disconnected from the organization, which can contribute to disengagement and absenteeism. Offering opportunities for professional growth and development can help employees stay engaged and committed to their work.

Maintain Regular Check-ins and Performance Reviews

Regular check-ins and performance reviews help managers stay connected with their remote and hybrid employees, identify any issues, and provide necessary support to address absenteeism.

Promote Team Building and Social Interaction

Organize virtual team-building activities and events to help employees connect with their colleagues and feel a sense of belonging within the organization, which can reduce the feelings of isolation and disengagement that can contribute to absenteeism.

Address Technological Barriers

Ensure that employees have access to the necessary tools, resources, and technology to perform their job efficiently. Address any technological barriers that may contribute to reduced productivity or absenteeism. By implementing these best practices, organizations can effectively manage absenteeism in remote and hybrid workforces, fostering a productive and supportive work environment that encourages employee engagement and well-being.
David Rothstein

David Rothstein

Frequently asked questions
Other Related Terms
Absence Rate
Bereavement Leave
Compensatory Leave
Disability Leave
Employee Leave
Employee Tardiness
Leave Management
Military Leave from Work
No Call/No Show Policy
Paid Time Off (PTO)
Personal Leave
Shift Scheduling
Unpaid Time Off (UTO)
Volunteer Time Off
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