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Employee engagement · 

5 minutes

Cormac O'SullivanPiggy

Absenteeism in the Workplace: Types, Causes, and Remedies

What is Absenteeism in the Workplace?

Absenteeism refers to the habitual non-attendance of employees at their job, resulting in lost productivity and increased costs for businesses. In the workplace, absenteeism can take several forms, ranging from authorized absences to chronic absenteeism. Understanding the different types and causes of absenteeism is essential for employers to effectively manage and minimize its impact on their organization.

What are the Different Types of Absenteeism?

Authorized and Planned Absences

Authorized and planned absences are those that have been approved by management, such as vacation days or scheduled medical appointments. These absences are usually not a cause for concern, as they are part of the employee's benefits package and allow for necessary work-life balance.

Unexpected but Legitimate Absences

Unexpected but legitimate absences occur when an employee is absent from work due to unforeseen circumstances, such as illness, family emergencies, or car accidents. Although these absences may cause disruptions in the workplace, they are generally considered acceptable, as employees cannot always control these events.

Unauthorized and Illegitimate Absences

Unauthorized and illegitimate absences are those where employees miss work without a valid reason or without notifying their employer. These types of absences can have a negative impact on productivity, as they are often unpredictable and may require other employees to cover the absent employee's workload.

Chronic Absenteeism

Chronic absenteeism refers to a pattern of frequent and persistent absences, which can be detrimental to both the employee and the employer. Employees who regularly miss work may struggle to meet their job responsibilities and may face disciplinary action, while employers may experience decreased productivity and increased costs related to employee turnover.

Causes of Absenteeism

Injury or Illness

Injuries and illnesses are common reasons for employees to miss work. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 2.7 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported by private industry employers in 2020.

Disengaged Employees

Disengaged employees are more likely to miss work, as they may not feel motivated or connected to their job. Gallup research has found that disengaged employees have 37% higher absenteeism rates than engaged employees.

Care for Family

Employees may need to take time off to care for family members, such as children or elderly relatives. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in the United States provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for certain family and medical reasons.

Burnout, Stress, or Anxiety

Work-related stress, anxiety, and burnout can lead to increased absenteeism. A study by Harvard Business School found that workplace stress is responsible for up to $190 billion in annual U.S. healthcare costs.

Dispute Management

Workplace disputes, such as conflicts with supervisors or colleagues, can cause employees to feel uncomfortable at work and may lead to increased absences.

Mental Health Issues

Mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety disorders, can cause employees to miss work. In fact, mental health problems account for over 200 million lost workdays in the U.S. each year, costing employers billions of dollars in lost productivity.

Jury Duty or Other Civic Duties

Employees may need to take time off to fulfill their civic duties, such as serving on a jury or voting in elections. Employers are typically required to provide unpaid leave for these purposes, as mandated by federal and state laws.


Bereavement leave allows employees to take time off to grieve the loss of a close family member. Many companies offer paid or unpaid bereavement leave as part of their employee benefits package.

Household Emergencies

Unexpected household emergencies, such as burst pipes or power outages, may require employees to take time off to address the issue.

Lack of a Flexible Working Schedule

A lack of flexible working options can contribute to absenteeism, as employees may struggle to balance work and personal responsibilities. Offering flexible work schedules can help to reduce absenteeism by accommodating individual needs.

Poor Leadership

Poor leadership can lead to increased absenteeism, as employees may feel undervalued or unsupported in their roles. Effective management is crucial for creating a positive work environment and promoting employee attendance.

How to Measure Absenteeism in the Workplace?

To measure absenteeism, employers can calculate the absenteeism rate, which is the ratio of total days missed to the total number of workdays in a given period. This formula can be used:

Absenteeism rate = (Total days missed / Totalworkdays) x 100

By tracking absenteeism rates over time, employers can identify patterns and trends, which can help to inform strategies for reducing absenteeism.

How to Minimize Absenteeism

Identify Existing Causes of Absenteeism

Understanding the specific reasons for absenteeism within your organization is crucial for developing targeted interventions. Conduct surveys, hold focus groups, or analyze absence records to identify common causes of absences among your employees.

Develop a Clear Absence Policy

Establishing a clear and consistent absence policy can help to reduce confusion and promote accountability. Ensure that employees understand the procedures for reporting absences and the consequences of excessive absenteeism.

Give Flexible Working Options

Offering flexible working arrangements, such as remote work, flexible hours, or job sharing, can help to accommodate employees' personal needs and reduce absenteeism.

Work on Employee Motivation and Engagement

Engaged and motivated employees are less likely to miss work. Implement strategies to boost employee engagement, such as offering professional development opportunities, recognizing achievements, and fostering a positive work environment.

Be Compassionate in Times of Emergency

Demonstrate empathy and understanding when employees face personal emergencies or crises. Providing support, such as offering additional time off or connecting employees with resources, can help to alleviate stress and promote a sense of loyalty to the organization.

Offer Competitive Working Conditions

Ensure that your organization offers competitive salaries, benefits, and working conditions to attract and retain top talent. Employees who feel valued and satisfied in their roles are less likely to miss work.

Promote Employee Mental Health & Wellbeing

Support employee mental health by offering resources, such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), mental health days, or wellness initiatives. Encourage open communication about mental health and create a supportive work environment that prioritizes employee wellbeing.

Absenteeism is when workers miss work often. It can be a big problem for companies. There are different types of absenteeism, like planned absences and unexpected ones. Some absences are okay, but others can cause issues.

Many things can cause workers to miss work. These include illness, stress, family care, and bad leadership. To fix this problem, companies need to find out why workers are missing work. Then, they can create plans to help workers be at work more often.

Companies should have clear rules about missing work. They should also give workers flexible schedules. This can help workers balance their work and personal lives.

Employers should make sure workers are happy and motivated, as this encourages employees to be at work more often.

When workers have emergencies, employers should be understanding. They should help workers and give them time off if needed. This can make workers feel more loyal to the company.

Offering good pay and benefits can also help reduce absenteeism. Workers who feel valued are less likely to miss work. Companies should also support their workers' mental health. This can help workers be healthier and more likely to be at work.

In conclusion, absenteeism is a problem that many companies face. To solve this problem, companies need to understand why workers miss work. They should create plans to help workers be at work more often. By doing this, companies can have happier, healthier workers. This is good for both the workers and the company.

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