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The complete guide to absenteeism in the workplace

If a few of your employees are missing from their desks, you might be able to manage without them by sharing work around or just waiting for them to come back. But what if it’s not just a few employees who are missing? And what if it’s a sustained, long-term problem with your organization? There’s a word for this: absenteeism. You’re probably thinking about loss of productivity and profits, and you’re absolutely right. So in this Pacific Prime Latin America article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know to understand and combat absenteeism. 

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What is absenteeism?

Put simply, absenteeism is the non-presence of an employee at their workplace. Of course, employees are entitled to vacation days, sick days, and may request additional days off for family emergencies or other legitimate causes. But if this non-presence extends beyond what is deemed reasonable by the employer, then it becomes habitual absenteeism and that’s where the problem lies. It results in a negative impact on the company’s bottom line through lowered productivity. Here’s how:

  • If there are fewer staff in the office, this means that less work gets done and overall productivity is lowered.
  • If existing staff have to compensate by working more, this could decrease their morale and productivity. 

Did you know that absenteeism is a significant problem in a number of Latin American countries (and those in other regions)? Let’s take Mexico as an example. According to a research paper by Cachazo at Walden University in 2018, the estimated cost of absenteeism linked to depression alone is USD $928 per person. Employee absenteeism also results in additional costs of 7% or USD $70 for every USD $1,000 of companies’ payroll in Mexico. In addition to depression, absenteeism can occur for a number of reasons. 

Causes of absenteeism 

In no particular order, here are a few reasons to take note of:

  • Caring duties: Taking care of a child or elderly relative may force employees to stay home when normal arrangements have fallen through.
  • Illnesses and injuries: Chronic illnesses, injuries, and medical appointments are all reasons why employees may need more days off work. 
  • Burnout, stress, and low morale: Heavy workload and stressful encounters at work, as well as stressors from employees’ personal lives, may cause absences from work.
  • Depression and other mental health issues: Employees who are suffering from depression and other mental health issues are more likely to skip work. 
  • Harassment: Employees who face harassment in the workplace from their colleagues or managers are going to want to avoid the situation by not showing up at work. 
  • Job hunting: If employees are in the process of switching jobs, they’ll also need days off to attend job interviews or work on their job applications. 

Further reading: With flu season approaching, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, learn more about this deadly duo or “twindemic”. This may cause a higher number of absences than usual  at work. 

4 solutions to combat absenteeism

Unfortunately, there’s no magic solution to combat absenteeism. As there are many causes of absenteeism, the solutions will differ based on the cause. For example, an employee who is absent because of caring duties might benefit from flexible working arrangements. On the other hand, an employee who is absent because they are being harassed will need the employer to have a harassment policy that effectively prevents and addresses harassment. That being said, here are some things you can do to get started. 

1. Know the impact of absenteeism across the organization

To combat absenteeism, you’ll need to know how widespread absenteeism is in your organization and what impact it has. Use data analytic tools to track excused and unexcused worker absenteeism. In addition, you can also share these insights with workers. This sets the stage for employees to do their part to correct the problem. 

2. Discuss absenteeism and share absenteeism policies 

Host meetings with employees to discuss what absenteeism is and what your organization’s policies are. Employees should be aware of what absences are usually allowed and what absences are beyond the scope of what’s reasonable, as well as how to notify their managers if they need to miss work.

Pro tip: You can also survey employees to get their insight into absenteeism – why they tend to be absent and what they feel about the organization’s policies. This can help you fine tune your approach.

3. Be open to listening to employees’ concerns 

Do check in with employees from time to time to ask whether they have any issues at work. This will make employees feel like you’re open to listening to them, which will make them more likely to reach out when they’re facing any of the aforementioned causes of absenteeism. This way, you can address their specific concerns and prevent absenteeism from arising in the first place.

4. Adopt a holistic approach to employee wellbeing 

As they say, prevention is better than cure. Why not prevent employees from being absent by prioritizing a holistic approach to employee wellbeing and ensuring that employees are physically, mentally, and financially healthy? You can do this through robust employee benefits such as: 

  • Physical: Group health insurance plans that ensure employees can access healthcare and address any health problem before the condition worsens. 
  • Mental: Employee assistance programs (EAPs) provide counseling, stress management, and other support to address poor mental health. 
  • Financial: Employee discount programs, budgeting workshops, and retirement planning can reduce employees’ money worries. 

Further reading: A holistic approach to employee wellbeing is a key employee benefits trend this year, which our Global Employee Benefits Trends Report 2021 delves into!

Get in touch with an employee benefits specialist like Pacific Prime Latin America

As a global health insurance brokerage and employee benefits specialist, Pacific Prime Latin America helps a number of organizations design, implement, and manage their employee benefits program to reduce absenteeism and meet their organizational goals. Whether it’s corporate insurance, group health insurance, or any other solution, we adopt a tailored, technology-driven approach that puts your organization’s strategy first, and are up to date on the latest industry trends and government regulations. 

To learn more about our offerings and what we can do for you, you’re more than welcome to arrange a consultation with a member of our corporate team

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Senior Content Creator at Pacific Prime Latin America
Suphanida is a Senior Content Creator at Pacific Prime, an award-winning global health insurance and employee benefits specialist.

With over 5 years of experience in the field, Suphanida spends the majority of her day synthesizing complex pieces of insurance-related information and translating this into easy-to-understand, engaging, and effective content across a variety of media such as articles, infographics, whitepapers, videos, and more.

Suphanida is also responsible for planning and publishing three whitepapers released annually by Pacific Prime: The State of Health Insurance Report, The Cost of Health Insurance Report, and The Global Employee Benefits Trends Report. Additionally, she handles the LinkedIn profiles of Pacific Prime’s Founder and CEO, as well as Global HR Lead.

Suphanida’s strengths lie in her strong research and analytical skills, which she has gained from her BA in Politics from the University of Warwick and Erasmus Mundus Joint MA in Journalism from Aarhus University and City, University of London.

Being of Thai-Indian origin and having lived, studied, and worked in Thailand, the UK, and Denmark, Suphanida also has a unique, multicultural perspective that helps her understand the struggles of expats and globetrotters.

Outside of work, she enjoys traveling to new places and immersing herself in different cultures.
Suphanida Thakral