Employee absenteeism: definition, causes and how to deal with it

Employee absenteeism generates losses in the productivity of companies and decreases in the quality of products and services provided. The...
27 February 2024

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Employee absenteeism: definition, causes and how to deal with it

Employee absenteeism generates losses in the productivity of companies and decreases in the quality of products and services provided.

The most common causes of these unjustified absences point to factors such as stress, burnout or depression in the workplace. 

High employee absenteeism rates can be managed and we want to help you do it. To do this, we will clarify what employee absenteeism is, causes, how to avoid or reduce it and what level of absenteeism is considered “acceptable”.

What is employee absenteeism?

Employee absenteeism is the frequent and repeated absence of an employee from work without a valid reason and without being foreseen by the company. 

It does not include absences due to illness or transportation problems, scheduled time off or family emergencies, i.e., any type of absence that is planned or justified.  


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Causes of employee absenteeism

There are several causes of employee absenteeism. We list the most common ones:  

  • Burnout or burned worker syndrome. 
  • Lack of motivation due to lack of recognition, fairness in performance evaluation, etc. 
  • Covert job search when people do not feel recognized or committed to the company’s goals and values.
  • Micromanagement or invasive supervision of employees that makes their autonomy impossible and destroys trust in leaders.
  • Harassment at work. Victims of harassment by coworkers or superiors often miss work on a regular basis because they are subjected to continuous states of stress and fear. 
  • Depression. According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO) in its report “Mental health at work“, it is estimated that 12,000 million working days a year are lost due to depression and anxiety. 

How to manage employee absenteeism?

Managing employee absenteeism requires a comprehensive approach based on a Human Resources (HR) strategy that takes into consideration the following elements: 

  • Detailed monitoring of absences, both scheduled and unscheduled. 
  • Analysis of absence patterns.
  • Deployment of work dynamics to eliminate and avoid common triggers. 
  • Reward policies for good attendance. 

In the following points, we will share with you some of the actions you can implement in your company to combat employee absenteeism and improve the working conditions of your employees. 

Opt for interpersonal leadership

Interpersonal leadership is a type of leadership aimed at extracting the best from each person, valuing their capabilities in a personalized way and establishing a relationship of trust that improves team performance.

This type of leadership is based on criteria of creating harmonious relationships between people and dynamics of empowerment of their talents.

Employee absenteeism

Work on the prevention of mental health risks

Having an occupational risk program that takes into account the mental health of employees is very positive. 

To achieve the best results, it is necessary to develop active listening and create spaces and means to facilitate feedback

Working on inclusion in the workplace

Promoting equal opportunities for all is a way to motivate your teams and improve the working environment in your company. 

In this way, the development of equality policies through training and leadership coaching programs are resources you can incorporate into your HR strategy. 

It is important that performance and salaries are aligned with objective, measurable and evaluable criteria.  

Flexible working hours

Flexible work schedules help your employees achieve a work-life balance between their professional and personal commitments. 

Remember too, that people feel valued and increase their commitment to the company when they are given some autonomy in carrying out their responsibilities. 

Increase satisfaction and motivation

New trends in human resources point to the importance of improving the employee experience in human capital management.

This strategy takes a customer experience-focused dynamic and delivers experiences to employees based on their expectations, addressing motivational, financial, social and health dimensions. 

You can conduct employee engagement surveys that allow you to measure employee satisfaction and motivation. This HR tool allows you to work on improving the social relations in your company.

What is employee absenteeism

What is an acceptable employee absenteeism rate?

An acceptable employee absenteeism rate is around 1.5%, although in certain contexts, such as the pandemic, it is normal for it to reach higher percentages. 

It should be noted, however, that the average rates in American companies, both private and public, are close to 3 %, which is significantly lower than those reported in studies focused on Europe. 

In any case, higher levels can affect the proper functioning of your company. In this sense, a high absenteeism rate translates into a high economic cost -millions of dollars each year- for American companies. 

In addition to the important economic consequences mentioned above, there are others, including: 

  • Loss of productivity. 
  • Decreased quality of goods and services. 
  • Unexpected consumption of resources in managing absenteeism.
  • Additional responsibilities for the active workers.
  • Deterioration of the work environment.  

Similarly, a low attendance rate can be a sign of a problem. This is often the case in companies where employees fear the reaction of management when they are absent.This phenomenon is called presenteeism.

At this point, and for all the implications it brings, we will show you how to calculate the absenteeism rate in your company. 

How to calculate employee absenteeism?

To calculate the employee absenteeism rate, you can use the following formula: 

Days the employee was absent / Available working days in a given period (a month or a year) X 100.

It is important to note that this calculation excludes hours not worked during vacation periods, holidays and hours included in layoff plans.

In terms of managing employee absenteeism, it is crucial to create a safe environment that is conducive to sharing, for example in the context of periodic evaluations. 

To help you, Smowltech offers our clients proctoring plans that provide you with the latest online monitoring technology. 

Request a free demo and find out how we can help you improve your company’s absenteeism rate.


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