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How to Reduce Unscheduled Absences: Strategies for Success

Published on
April 20, 2023
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Top Absence Management Strategies to Reduce Unscheduled Absences

It’s no secret in the business world that unscheduled employee absences can take a significant toll on productivity and project quality. The CDC found that absenteeism due to worker illness and injury alone costs U.S. businesses $225.8 billion annually, making absenteeism a massive concern in the modern business landscape.

Creating a culture of well-being in your workplace requires a cohesive understanding of effective absence management to reduce unscheduled absences. While unscheduled absenteeism due to sudden health issues and emergencies is unavoidable, HR leaders and managers can take numerous other steps to reduce absences due to other situations.

But how can you reduce unscheduled absences in the first place? This is a tricky question for many professionals to answer. This article will do just that by providing everything there is to know about employee health and well-being, SME absence management, and the best strategies to lower unscheduled absences in your business.

What is Employee Absenteeism?

Employee absenteeism is employees’ chronic, unscheduled absence without business managers’ prior approval. Absenteeism means that an employee does not show up for work, taking an unauthorized leave in the form of part- and full-day absences. Absenteeism significantly influences companies because it can disrupt a team’s workflow, schedule, and productivity. Unscheduled absences stress employees who must take on the additional workload for their colleagues.

Among the many reasons for employee absenteeism include the following:

  • Personal illness
  • Family emergencies
  • Workplace conflicts
  • Employee burnout
  • Stress
  • Lack of job satisfaction
  • Low morale
  • Lack of discipline or disregard for workplace responsibilities

Reducing Unscheduled Absences

Having strategies to reduce and manage unscheduled absences is necessary to keep your business sustainable in the long term. Mitigating unscheduled absences is possible when businesses approach absenteeism from multiple perspectives and implement some of the following strategies.

1. Restructure Your Call-In Policy

Unscheduled absences don’t have to be a massive issue in your organization. One way to reduce unscheduled absences is by restructuring your current call-in policy to make it easier for employees to call out of work. If an employee doesn’t have a clear pathway to notify the right people about an unscheduled absence, they can’t communicate the change to you. Without this communication, you won’t have a chance to create a plan of action to cover for the missing employee.

Ensure that employees know how to call in last minute by defining who they should speak to, when they should call in before their shift, whether to notify you via text, email, or phone and what information they need to provide for approval. Even though this method won’t completely stop unscheduled absences, it can mitigate the damages caused by unannounced, unscheduled absences.

2. Reevaluate Your Attendance Policy

If you aren’t sure about the leading cause of employee absenteeism, you should consider closely examining your current attendance policy. Reducing employee absenteeism is possible when you clearly outline what is expected from employees regarding their attendance. Distribute an attendance policy that clearly explains the process of reporting last-minute absences, what to expect during the follow-up for unscheduled absences, and the consequences for frequent, excessive absences.

Ensure your policy is straightforward and leaves no room for confusion or misinterpretation. Your attendance policy should also include the following:

  • Specification on how attendance will be tracked
  • Step-by-step process to report scheduled and unscheduled absences
  • Explanation of the various types of leave
  • Guidelines to help employees request time off
  • Documentation requirements, if any, for unscheduled absences
  • Information on the accommodation and leave process for employees with disabilities
  • Mention of attendance incentives and rewards
  • Guidelines for your confidentiality and privacy to guarantee compliance and protect employee well-being and rights

3. Have a Conversation Before Taking Action

No employee wants to stay working for an employer that shows no empathy or grace when mistakes happen. When facing high absenteeism levels in the workplace, you must approach employees openly and have a conversation before taking action and punishing the employee.

Frequent absences are undoubtedly frustrating to how you go about your work day, and many leaders choose to lash out and take disciplinary action when an employee suffers from absenteeism. Ultimately, this approach is unproductive for employees and your company’s longevity. Avoid disciplinary action as your first solution to reducing unscheduled absences.

Open conversation with your frequently absent employees and address the situation as soon as you notice it is becoming a problem. A calm, level-headed explanation of how an employee’s absences are causing organizational difficulties can be more productive in reducing absenteeism in the long run.

When speaking with your employees, invite them to openly share their concerns and the reasons behind their frequent absences. Work to devise a solution with your employees based on their and your company’s needs. By listening first instead of punishing, you can foster healthier relationships with your employees and boost employee satisfaction.

4. Understand the Impact of Poor Management

Employee satisfaction is massively dependent on how employees feel about their managers. Fostering a productive and positive workplace culture can prevent unscheduled absences by motivating employees to show up daily. A study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found the following to be true about employees’ opinions of their workplace management:

  • 84 percent of American working professionals believe that poorly trained people managers cause unnecessary and excessive stress in the workplace
  • 57 percent of American professionals believe that managers in their workplaces could benefit from employee-centric training
  • 50 percent of employees believe that their performance would improve if supervisors invested time in training to become a people manager
  • The top five skills that employees feel managers need to improve include communicating effectively, developing and training employees and teams, managing and delegating time, cultivating an inclusive and diverse workplace, and managing overall team performance.

5. Implement Employee Wellness Programs

Protecting your employees’ overall health and well-being is essential to any effective retention strategy. HR strategies for well-being can unlock numerous benefits for your organization. While there isn’t a universally accepted definition that encompasses the breadth of employee wellness programs, the U.S. Department of Labor identifies three activities that fall under the employee wellness programs label:

  • Screening programs to identify health risks
  • Primary prevention programs address health risks through lifestyle management strategies and secondary prevention methods/disease management.
  • Health promotion measures, such as healthier food options in the workplace cafeteria

Modern employers often take a more innovative approach to employee wellness programs outside of these parameters. Some emerging employee wellness programs include the following:

  • Physical health programs, such as on-site fitness centers and gym memberships
  • Mental health support access to address an employee’s psychological well-being, including access to counseling services, stress management workshops, and mental health education resources
  • Work-life balance initiatives like flexible work hours, remote work options, and annual paid time-off to reduce employee burnout and increase loyalty
  • Health education resources like workshops and newsletters to help empower employees with the knowledge to lead a healthy life
  • Financial wellness programs to help employees manage personal finances through financial education, assistance, and planning services

6. Reward Good Attendance

Reducing unscheduled absences related to a lack of motivation is possible by implementing a rewards system for employees with good attendance. You can boost employee morale and make work more enjoyable by providing incentives to show up to work. Employees that have good attendance can be incentivized in some of the following ways:

  • Annual or quarterly cash bonuses
  • Extra allowance for planned, paid time off
  • Verbal appreciation and acknowledgment for employees with perfect attendance
  • Rewards like gifts and gift cards tailored to individual preferences and interests
  • Increased workplace privileges, such as extended breaks

7. Master Employee Engagement Strategies

Keeping employees engaged and interested in what they are doing can make it likelier that your workers will show up daily. Employee engagement strategies are used by businesses to enhance employee commitment and satisfaction, creating a positive workplace environment and leading to productivity improvement.

Engagement strategies can foster a sense of belonging and help leaders establish relationships with their employees. Some essential elements of effective engagement strategies include the following:

  1. Frequent and open communication with employees via transparent communication channels, including team meetings, one-on-one meetings, and company-exclusive events
  2. Encouragement for employees to share their ideas and opinions without fearing judgment
  3. Skills and training programs to enhance specific skills and hone an employee’s knowledge of workplace operations
  4. Employee feedback and surveys to engage with employees and show them that their feedback is always considered; these anonymous surveys ensure that you understand employees’ needs, concerns, and wants for the future of their employment.
  5. Team building activities to engage all team members and foster collaboration among employees by getting everyone involved in reaching an attainable goal
  6. Effective diversity and inclusion initiatives to help employees feel comfortable engaging with your organization and safe in your work environment

8. Test Alternative Schedules

Sometimes the cause of chronic absenteeism is as fixable as testing alternative schedules to accommodate employees better. Flexible schedules or alternative schedules outside of the traditional model can transform employee satisfaction and increase retention rates for your business.

An alternative schedule might involve different attendance options, such as remote and hybrid work. Employees with flexible working options will likely take advantage of these accommodations to make work more productive and enjoyable for their specific work style. When employees can work flexibly, 87 percent choose to take it.

Remote and hybrid work options aren’t the only options for alternative scheduling. You can also consider offering scheduling options like part-time or compressed schedules and the option to start or end work earlier by shifting typical start and end times.

9. Keep Track of Employee Absences

Without accurate records of employee absences, you won’t be able to identify a problem in your workforce. A complete, up-to-date record allows leaders to identify a pattern and address employee attendance issues. Various options exist to track absenteeism and enforce your absence management policy accurately.

Consider a system that allows employees to quickly clock in and out of work once they arrive, such as apps that offer notifications at start and end times to ensure that employees begin and end work at the right time.

10. Foster Transparency in Your Workplace

If employees don’t feel like they can be honest with your company’s leaders, you’ll struggle to identify the primary reason behind unscheduled absences. Establishing clear communication between employees and business leaders is crucial to any organization, especially regarding transparency around scheduling.

Along with a policy book that clearly outlines attendance processes and requirements, ensure that employees have frequent access to their schedules to check their hours no matter where they are. Additionally, practice empathy and active listening to show your employees that they can trust you with their current struggles, issues, and anxieties in the workplace, leading to frequent absences.

11. Use Technology to Retain Employees

The modern workforce constantly evolves, and technological advancements have unlocked several opportunities to improve your absence management system and successfully reduce unscheduled absences. By implementing technology to navigate your absence-management process, you offer employee scheduling solutions to address and reduce absenteeism.

These programs ensure that managers are notified about unscheduled absences as soon as possible through instant updates, allowing enough time to find backup coverage. Additionally, technology can display your scheduling in a single view, allowing you to optimize shifts and adjust employee schedules to accommodate their needs better, reduce burnout, and prioritize well-being.

Steps to Creating a Culture of Well-Being in the Workplace

Though HR leaders can use numerous employee retention strategies to reduce unscheduled absences, they must also focus on creating a well-rounded, complete culture of well-being in the workplace. However, most leaders find that this is easier said than done. Below is an overview of the crucial steps to create and nurture a culture of well-being in your workplace to increase employee satisfaction.

1. Show Commitment to Leadership

No matter how much you claim to have a culture of well-being in your workplace, the only way to prove this is by showing commitment to leadership. HR managers and business leaders can set a sturdy foundation for a culture of well-being by displaying a commitment to being an active and empathetic leader and a dedication to employees' physical and mental health. Guarantee that employee well-being is a top priority for your business, no matter what's happening in the background.

2. Assess the Current State of Employee Absenteeism

Even if your employee absenteeism rates aren’t detrimental to your organization, they can be if you let them build up. Assessing the current state of your employee absenteeism rate and your company’s culture of well-being can give you an idea of what’s missing in your current strategy.

Assessing the state of absenteeism and employee satisfaction is possible with assessments like interviews, surveys, focus groups, and data analysis. Interpreting this data provides actionable insights into where to focus your energy to improve your workplace culture.

3. Define Well-Being in Your Organization

What does well-being mean for your organization? How can you align your current organizational goals with a culture of well-being? Understanding what well-being looks like for your company and its employees is essential to fostering a culture of well-being.

Well-being is a multifaceted concept encompassing strategies, methods, and action plans to improve organizational health and employee performance. Developing a clear definition of well-being in alignment with your company’s overall goals for improvement will ensure that everything you do contributes to a healthy and transparent environment.

When defining a culture of well-being for your organization, consider your employees’ physical, mental, and emotional well-being, which could contribute to absenteeism and presenteeism. Implement and promote healthy work-life balance methods to ensure your employees don’t experience burnout.

4. Get Employees Involved

An influential culture of well-being requires an employee-centric approach. Putting your employees first when developing a healthy workplace culture is easier when you get feedback and inspiration directly from your employees.

Involving employees in developing a culture of well-being can ensure that your HR leaders meet employee expectations and needs, fostering productivity and morale. Involving employees is possible through anonymous surveys to collect honest feedback, share concerns, and participate in decision-making regarding employee well-being initiatives.

Additionally, including employees in this process helps employees feel appreciated and valued by your organization and shows workers how their contributions matter to the organization.

5. Provide Training and Education

Offering employees ample resources to learn about well-being strategies and implementing a new, health-focused approach to the organization’s culture can equip employees with the knowledge they need to take care of their physical and mental health at work, making their jobs less stressful and increasing attendance and retention rates. Along with organization-led wellness programs, provide additional resources to ensure employees have everything they need to live their healthiest lives.

6. Practice Role Modeling

Employees won’t believe in your culture of well-being if you can’t act as a professional role model to inspire employees to take care of their physical and mental health. Role modeling by practicing healthy habits, maintaining a positive work-life balance, and prioritizing your well-being as a leader sets a positive example for your employees.

By operating according to your culture of wellness, you show employees that they should always put their well-being above all else. This eases any anxieties employees may have about well-being in the workplace and whether they’ll be judged for putting themselves first.

7. Continuous Evaluation and Improvement

Frequently assessing and evaluating your current well-being initiatives is one of the best ways to ensure that your culture of well-being meets employee expectations and needs. Continuous improvement is possible by collecting feedback and analyzing data to improve and adjust your current initiatives. Well-being should always be a focus in your organization, and continuously evolving to meet the needs of a shifting workforce is essential to maintaining a healthy culture now and in the future.

How Absence Management Impacts Employee Health, Productivity, and Satisfaction

An effective SME absence management system can unlock significant benefits for employee health, productivity, and workplace satisfaction. Implementing the absence management strategies mentioned above can improve productivity and foster a welcoming, healthy workplace environment.

But how does absence management improve employee health? Consider the following.

  • Absence management reduces employee stress and burnout, and a policy focused on employee well-being can encourage a healthy work-life balance while providing support for employee needs.
  • Absence management initiatives can improve overall job satisfaction with your employees. An effective system ensures that employees feel understood and offers options to help individual employees create a work environment that suits their preferences. Absence management can show that your organization cares for its employees and foster a sense of loyalty and transparency.
  • Absence management programs can enhance productivity by reducing unscheduled absences and effectively managing last-minute absences when they occur. Absence management ensures that an absent employee’s workload is distributed evenly among team members to ensure project completion.
  • Absence management boosts employee morale and motivation, allowing employees to approach work with a positive attitude and motivation to perform their best. Your absence management policy should outline paid and other time off options to show employees they can take time off without being penalized for single absences.
  • Absence management encourages employee health by improving work-life balance through flexible working arrangements, paid time off, and personal accommodations to protect employee well-being.

Reduce Unscheduled Absences With Strategies from Redstone HR

A successful absence management system can significantly contribute to employee health and well-being, allowing HR leaders to reduce employee absenteeism, connect with employees on a deeper level, and develop well-being programs that put the employee’s health first and foremost. Developing a comprehensive absence management system is possible with solutions like Redstone HR.

At Redstone HR, we provide time-off management solutions, such as the following:

  • Automated time-off approvals and notifications
  • Customizable leave policies
  • Integrations with the tools you already use to manage your daily workflow
  • User-friendly portal to empower your employees and provide easy access to attendance policies and procedures
  • Eliminate redundant inquiries by meeting all employee needs in one location

Redstone HR provides HR managers and business leaders with the resources necessary to create a culture of well-being by putting your employees first. Redstone HR offers advanced analytics, management capabilities, and numerous absence management tools to take employee retention to the next level. Check out our educational resources today to learn more about how Redstone HR has the best solutions to help your business thrive.