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SHRM/Kronos Study Says Absenteeism Hits Coworkers Hard

absence hurts morale

Earlier this year, SHRM and Kronos conducted a study of the impact of employee absence on organizations and employees.  The holiday season is, of course, particularly hard hit with employee absences.  We’ve done research on this topic before, though the emphasis has been largely on the financial impact of absence.  This study, like the prior research, underscores the greater impact that unplanned absenteeism has on the bottom line.

Unlike the prior research, though, we asked questions about the impact on coworkers. What we found was that the party affected most by unplanned absences seems to be colleagues, as the study shows that their perceived productivity loss is most affected (29.5% productivity loss for co-workers in the U.S.).  Coworkers report feeling more stressed when their colleagues are out, especially when those absences are unplanned.

Absences, planned or otherwise, are going to happen.  People have lots of legitimate reasons why they need time off – childcare, elder care, illness, appointments, and also the need to recharge once in a while.  Organizations can’t avoid absences, but there are things they can do to mitigate the impact of absenteeism in the workplace:

  1. Implement an absence policy. If you do not have one already, an absence policy to balance employee and employer needs is the first step in addressing the potential problem.
  2. Communicate the policy. There’s little point in having an absence policy if you do not communicate it to employees.
  3. Encourage proactive communications between managers and staff about requests to take time off, or to work a different schedule.  Unplanned absences are more expensive to manage than those you know are coming.
  4. Support flexibility.  Not everybody celebrates the same holidays, and people may be willing to swap shifts to accommodate coworkers.  But make sure that you have a system in place to cope with monitoring the flex hours.
  5. Enforce the absence policy. Any absence policy needs to be monitored and enforced consistently and fairly throughout the organization to curb unscheduled absences – more than half of employed adults believe that their work performance is negatively impacted when attendance policies are not fairly enforced.
  6. Provide incentives for excellent attendance. Many organizations effectively use perfect attendance bonuses as an incentive to reduce absenteeism.
  7. Be realistic about absence during the holidays.  Try not to start projects that require all hands on deck when increased absence is likely.
  8. Make controlling absenteeism a business priority. There’s no excuse not to be in control of absence. Business tools are available to control and monitor absence levels and trends.

For more ideas about how to manage absenteeism during the holidays, you can listen to this podcast conversation between Sharlyn Lauby, the HR Bartender and retired Girl Scouts of Eastern Mass CEO Ruth Bramson.






Didja Know Santa’s a Workforce Management Expert?

Employee Engagement During the Holidays

Kronos_HolidayWorkingSurvey_USATodayIn the US, employee engagement can be especially challenging in the weeks from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.  Many workers want the same days off, and productivity can falter among those who remain on the job.For certain workers, the holidays bring a whole other set of set of variables: including working when other family members have the day off, opportunities for increased overtime, and scheduling around school vacations for working parents. The holidays can also bring tough weather, flu and cold season, and, for some, an added layer of stress.  When employees are at work, maintaining focus and engagement can be challenging. So what can organizations do to maintain engagement during a time of year that’s full of many distractions?

I asked two of our board members to join me in a conversation about things leaders can do to manage through the holidays while keeping those who are on the job engaged with those jobs.   Sharlyn Lauby, who is known industry-wide as The HR Bartender and is also President of ITM Group, and Ruth Bramson, former CEO of the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts and former Executive Vice President of HR for National Grid US shared their thoughts in the podcast below in which we discuss the following questions:

  1. What industries do you think are affected most by the holiday season?
  2. There are two sides of the coin when looking at how the holidays affect workers. One side you have those workers who will be taking more time off than usual; and then the other you have employees that must work even more during the holidays – like retail associates, nurses, and emergency services personnel. For these critical and hourly workers, are there ways organizations can capitalize on the holiday season to increase morale and build a better culture?
  3. types of unique perks have the organizations you’ve led employed to help employees maintain high levels of motivation during the holidays?
  4. What are some tips and tricks that organizations can employ for managing coverage during the holidays for both critical employees and those in more of a white collar role? (e.g. ensuring a clear and consistent PTO policy; transparency about scheduling; etc.)
  5. Have you seen any new technologies on the horizon that show promise for helping to engage the workplace?
  6.  Are there certain things they should AVOID doing?

Listen in on our podcast here.  And have a wonderful holiday season!