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From hours to years, employee absence has a whole variety. All employers know this and deal with the implications on a day-to-day basis.
Concepts of Absence
There are two concepts in physical absence. One is planned absence and the other unplanned absence. Planned absence is not a challenge because companies have casual leaves for the employees. Planned absence means that the work doesn’t suffer. Work remains and the employee takes a break, comes back and completes the work. So, all companies plan the workload accordingly. For example, we take thirteen months requirement for one man-year, so one month is vacation time. So if we are talking about two man-years of work, it is 26 months and not 24 months.
Second is unplanned absence. In this case, the work doesn’t stop because a certain someone is missing; work must go on. Say in a hospital; when the doctor is not there, patients still come in, and operations have to happen, so some other doctor has to step in. Unplanned absence has serious consequences at work. So in hospitals, they have the concept of ‘stepney’. Even if a doctor is available, there is always another doctor who is the backup. So if the main doctor is unwell or cannot make it for any reason, the ‘stepney’ steps in. So this is in a way converting unplanned absence into planned absence. But this model will work only occasionally.
Allowing employees to work from home or alter working hours to suit themselves helps them strike a work-life balance
Unplanned absence can be of either a shorter duration or a longer duration. In case of a shorter duration absence – a few hours, half a day, or even a day – the other members of the team step-in and pull the load together. Like at an airport check-in counter, if one of the executives is absent, the other ground staff has to fill in for him/her. Hence, short-term unplanned absence also can be managed. The long-term unplanned absence is a challenge. For example, the employee is away for one week or a defined time period, temporary staffing can be used to fill in the role and complete the task.
The most difficult to deal with is the ‘absent and absconding’ category. In this case, the employer has no definitive idea as to where the employee is or when, and if at all he/she is going to return. In such a case, the employer cannot even take corrective action steps. These are the concepts in physical absence. Now, let’s move on to the more serious and ‘difficult-to-deal-with’ out of the two, the mental absence.
Mental absence is scary. In this case, the employees come to work physically but are absent from work, mentally. This is where employee engagement comes to the forefront. When employees are disengaged at work, then they are only working half-a-day or a few hours and the productivity dips. It has consequences on profitability, customer satisfaction, and many other aspects. So, a lot of things happen when the employees are mentally absent. To me, this is the biggest challenge.
Effects of Unplanned Absence on a Company
Delays Deliverables – Especially when there are time bound projects to complete and absence hits, it takes a serious toll on the completion of the projects, sending costs and customer satisfaction haywire.
Upsets the Balance – If other team members have to pull the load of the absent colleague regularly or for a long time, it disturbs the workload balance and can cause low morale overall.
Hits Productivity – If team mates are calling in sick, it can mean missed deadlines, low consistency within the team and an overall low productivity equation.
Seven Tips to Combat Absence
Reward Attendance – Offering employees incentives to promote higher attendance and discourage unnecessary absence. It could be a cash incentive, an extra day off, or a dinner with family.
Flexi Hours – Allowing employees to work from home or alter working hours to suit themselves helps them strike a work-life balance.
Back-to-Work Interviews – The HR should conduct back-to-work interviews with employees who have taken an unplanned leave to understand the causes and gauge how genuine they are. Keeping employees engaged is very crucial to reduce absenteeism across the business.
Review Your Attendance Policy – You should check if your policy is too strict to adhere to. Your policy should allow a little space for unplanned absences in cases like heavy rains, traffic snarls, VIP movements, or any other events which can be verified.
Train Your Managers – Managers spend more time with his/her team mates and understand the reasons for absenteeism. They will be able to facilitate an employees’ back-to-work faster.
Flexibility is the Key – As a mantra, organizations have to understand that employees have various personal issues and require some degree of flexibility. If organizations can do that, they will be rewarded with responsible employees who are willing to stretch and go the extra mile for the company.
Maintain Contact - Communicate with the employees who are absent from work
Absence has an impact on many work aspects – employer-employee relationships, productivity, customer satisfaction, deadlines and the general morale of the company. Strong employee engagement strategies and a robust attendance and reward policy can make all the difference.