How To Create An Absence Management Plan & Reduce Absenteeism

Customer lines. Long waits on the phone. Slow turnaround from order to delivery. Missing deadlines. Employees who are visibly frustrated with the extra work.

Employee absenteeism is killing your business.

Despite all of your hard work and your best hiring efforts to get your staffing levels up to where they should be, you look around and don’t see nearly enough employees actually on the clock. Whether it’s because of no-shows, chronic employee health issues, or last-minute sick day requests, your bottom line and customer service is taking a hit. Your other employees are also suffering from burnout because they have to pick up the slack and do extra work to make up for those who are absent.

Employee absenteeism costs you about $3,600 each year per hourly employee, and $2,660 each year per salaried employee. Now multiply that times each employee who tends to be absent, add to that overtime pay you have to give other employees who fill in that gap, and even consider the lost sales from customers fed up with slow service.

The last thing you want to do is watch your reliable employees leave because they’re tired of the others being absent. You definitely don’t want to get a bad reputation with your customers. And you’re absolutely tired of hearing another excuse from another employee on why they didn’t show up to work.

You need better absence management, and that comes in the form of having an actual plan in place to deal with employee absenteeism. No more kicking the can down the road, nagging employees and hoping they’ll change, or trying to solve things from behind the curve.

We’ll show you how to get ahead of the curve, and reduce unnecessary employee absenteeism.

Step #1: Identify legitimate employee absenteeism

Employees who have health issues, or who have family members with health issues they need to care for, have to be absent. This also goes for students who have a class schedule with testing requirements they can’t miss.

In other words, some absent employees have solid reasons, and when you understand that, you can handle it better. 

For starters, you can build a work schedule that takes this into account. If you’re using When I Work, you can set up your schedule template to account for these kinds of specifics for each employee, and it will automatically make sure people get on the right shifts based on their school or family schedule. Be sure students update their availability each semester so you have the most up-to-date information.

For those who have regular doctor’s appointments, work with them so that a more structured approach can be put in place for them, too. While you don’t want to pry into their health issues, let them know you want to work with them and encourage them to come to you as soon as possible when it comes to needing a day off or a different shift due to health.

If you’re using When I Work and take a flexible self scheduling approach, employees can swap shifts with other employees themselves, making these things even easier.

The point here is to get in front of it, communicate with employees that you want to work with them ahead of time instead of having them no-show, or ask for the day off the night before. 

Step #2: Work with your team and get input

Your employees get as frustrated about no-shows and excessive employee absenteeism as you do, so as you build your absence management plan, get their input. 

Wouldn’t they feel some relief if you announced that absenteeism has become an issue, and you wanted to work with them to come up with a solution? They’d know you were aware of what they were experiencing, and that they had the power to make change. Use an anonymous survey. Have open office hours where they can share ideas. Consider the procedures and processes they think might work.

Talk to the employees who are often absent and find out why it happens. Talk to the employees who have to pick up the slack. 

What you’ll discover is that you may not have understood all of the reasons or the frustrations for what’s going on, and it will help you see both the urgency and the changes necessary to fix it. After all, how can you hope to solve employee absenteeism if you don’t know why your workers continue to be absent?

This kind of communication is ongoing; it’s not a “set it and forget it” approach at all. Creating a working absence management plan takes time and plenty of tweaking, and your employees are the best place to find out what changes worked and what didn’t.

Step #3: Document and track employee absenteeism

Documenting employee absenteeism is important in case you need to let an employee go. But it’s also important so that you can spot trends and know what’s happening.

Who is often absent? Who is swapping the same shift to avoid working it? When is an employee often absent? How much notice does an employee tend to give? Which employees tend to get stuck working extra shifts or on shifts where absenteeism is common? Who shows up late or leaves early?

What you’re doing is spotting patterns. Some absences are rare or arise from the surprises that pop up in normal life (e.g. an employee got the flu). But some form a pattern. An employee who is always sick on Fridays when the weather is nice. An employee who never works the opening shift. An employee who is absent almost as much as they show up. An employee who is always late to their shift on Mondays. An employee who won’t work with another employee.

If you can spot the pattern, you can find solutions and build a better schedule. Ask the employee about what you’re seeing in their work history. Find out what’s going on. Perhaps they have to get their children ready for school and it just won’t work for them, or they work a weekend job and get to bed late on Sunday nights making Monday morning shifts hard to get to.

Spotting trends and patterns, and documenting absences, is easier when you use scheduling software like When I Work. With it, you can get easy at-a-glance information about employees, seeing in real time who has clocked in, who’s late, and who never showed up. You can see the historical attendance record of each employee easily.

Step #4: Put your absence management plan in writing

An absence management plan has to be able to deal with:

  • Employees who are regularly late for their shift.
  • Both short-term and long-term sick leave
  • Vacation and days off
  • Parents and caregivers who are responsible for others
  • No-show or no-call absences

The key here is consistency. You must treat all employees the same, and treat employee absenteeism the same for everyone. Dealing with employee no-shows isn’t fun, but if you have it written in a plan and they know it ahead of time, nothing you do should be a surprise to them. 

For caregivers, you may need to go to a flexible self scheduling approach (mentioned earlier) so last minute emergencies won’t derail shifts. Short-term and long-term sick leave policies are trickier, and that’s why, if you have an HR department, you should get some input. There are legal considerations, depending on the situation, your location, and the status of the employee, that impact sick leave from state and federal levels.

Step #5: Educate employees on absence policies

This may sound strange, but not every employee may understand the importance of showing up to work. We don’t all come from the same background and understanding of work expectations. If they’re absent a lot, they might not realize how it’s harming the others who do show up. And some employees probably don’t understand or remember your absentee policy.

While you go over such things when they’re a new hire, it never hurts to remind employees what your expectations are regarding absences. How soon do they need to request a day off? How do they swap a shift? What do they do if they wake up sick the morning of work? What happens if they’ve been calling in sick or no-showing just because they didn’t feel like working that day?

When they know ahead of time, there is no excuse.

Step #6: Use tools and software to automate and document

Using the right scheduling software, like When I Work, makes this whole thing much easier.

Not only does it build in some leeway for employees to take control of their own lives and work schedule by swapping shifts directly with each other, but it makes communicating with you and with coworkers easier, too. Plus, it keeps track of all attendance information, from when they arrive, leave, clock out for break, or if they show up at all. That makes documentation much easier in case you need to have a meeting with the employee or need to let them go. 

Employee absenteeism happens for a lot of reasons, part human nature, and part the accidents and disruptions that happen in life. Some are more problematic than others. Some are solved by changing how you build a schedule. 

Yes, some employees just like to skip work, and that’s simply not going to work out; the absence management plan will lead them to the door. But other absentee issues are legitimate. 

That’s why the software you use matters so much. When I Work makes building a better schedule, as part of your absence management plan, much easier. And that makes absence management much more effective.