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Excessive Absenteeism: What Causes it and How it’s Impacting Your Team
Team Experience
- mins read

Excessive Absenteeism: What Causes it and How it’s Impacting Your Team

Haelee Reis
Haelee Reis
Head of Marketing and Program
Haelee Reis
February 2, 2023

For the past few years, excessive absenteeism in the workplace has become a major pain point for organizations big and small. 

With the ever-changing labor landscape, we've observed labor shortages, high rates of burnout, the "Great Resignation", and the recently-coined "quiet quitting" that have caused companies to refocus their efforts toward employee satisfaction, engagement, and retention.

Here, we'll go over what causes absenteeism in the workplace, the various types of it, and how it can impact both teams and organizations.

What Causes Absenteeism in the Workplace?

There are a number of reasons why an employee becomes absent from their work duties; and not all of them are in your control. 

However, the first step to mitigating excessive absenteeism is identifying the root causes and then taking the appropriate actions.

  • Employee disengagement: When employees feel disenchanted with their work, they become less motivated to perform, and in turn, may start to let tasks fall through the cracks or stop showing up.
  • Illness or injury: It comes as no surprise that when a team member becomes sick or injured, they'll need some time away to recover. Such incidents are often out of an organization's control (barring injuries caused by employer negligence) but are nonetheless a major cause of absenteeism.
  • Familial obligations: Whether for childcare or elder care, there comes a time in most employees' lives when they may have to step back for familial reasons. This includes maternity and paternity leave.
  • Depression: The National Institute of Mental Health cites depression as being the leading cause of workplace absenteeism. This is why companies like PepTalk encourage organizations to make employee wellness and fulfillment a core value. While not a cure-all, allowing teams to feel that they are part of a community goes a long way to improving mental health.
  • Burnout: When teams feel overworked, underappreciated, underutilized, unchallenged, or any combination of these, chances are they'll feel the dreaded burnout. This creates a sense of apathy toward their job and can lead to excessive absenteeism.
  • Toxic workplace culture: Simply put, if employees feel they are being bullied, harassed, or left out, chances are they won't stick around for the long haul.

These are the top reasons why excessive absenteeism can occur in any workforce. 

While some of them are out of your control (childcare, illness, etc.), there are some steps you can take to mitigate the chances of others happening. For example, having frequent team check-ins and striving to improve your overall team experience does wonders to reduce absenteeism, increase retention, and keep employees fulfilled in their work.

What Are the Different Types of Absenteeism?

Much like the causes of absenteeism, the types of absenteeism are varied — and not all are necessarily bad. Oftentimes, absenteeism is a result of paid time off, sabbaticals, etc. It only becomes a cause for concern once it crosses the line into "excessive" territory.

Planned Absences

A planned absence is not normally cause for concern if your company plans well ahead of time. 

Situations such as maternity leave or paternity leave, paid vacation time, and more are expected and legally required (depending on jurisdiction) for each employee. Such absences rarely come out of nowhere, are planned for well in advance, and are not cause for concern.

Unplanned Absences

Unplanned absences, on the other hand, may be cause for concern depending on the situation. 

If it's just one or two sick days, it may not be an issue for the rest of the team to pick up the slack. If it's a severe injury that requires an extensive recovery period, things can get dicey if a plan isn't in place. Try to plan for emergency situations as much as possible so that if one does occur, the disruption to the team's operations is minimal.

Unauthorized or Excessive Absences

Unauthorized and/or excessive absences are by far the most concerning. 

In most cases, this means an employee hasn't requested time off, yet isn't showing up or isn't doing their work. This could be an early sign of "quiet quitting" — a recently-coined term that describes when an employee simply doesn't do their work or does minimal work to coast by for as long as possible until they are fired or quit. 

This means they become a drain on both team efficiency and the entire company's bottom line since they still collect wages and benefits for doing minimal or no work.

How Does Absenteeism Affect Organizations?

Excessive absenteeism affects an organization's bottom line. 

Employees that are gone or coasting still collect their paychecks while providing little to no value to the company. Additionally, if the company decides to terminate chronically absent employees, chances are they'll spend more money, time, and effort finding and hiring a replacement or interim contractor.

However, it's not always in a company's best interest to terminate absent employees. It could just be a case of feeling burnt out, which can be mitigated by prioritizing employees’ work-life balance, healthy lifestyle choices, or providing more career growth opportunities. 

How Does Absenteeism Affect Teams?

While excessive absenteeism does indeed affect a company's bottom line, it first and foremost impacts teams on the ground level. 

By now, you've probably heard of "turnover contagion", but here's a quick refresher — when one employee quits (or is chronically absent), it puts pressure on the rest of their team to pick up the slack to maintain production output. This extra workload, in turn, causes more team members to burn out quicker and quit. This domino effect was observed heavily during the coronavirus pandemic, but it remains an issue.

Additionally, a study from the Society for Human Resource Management found that overtime is used to cover 47% of employee absences and co-workers are perceived to be 29% less productive when covering for absent employees. 

So not only is the company paying out overtime unnecessarily, the quality of work declines. This makes the team feel burnt out and makes them look bad to the larger organization.

Reduce Absenteeism With PepTalk

The stress associated with chronically absent employees has rippling effects on both the micro and macro levels of an organization. 

Keeping your teams engaged, fulfilled, and connected with one another so they can feel comfortable with being transparent about their issues is one of the key ways to take steps toward reducing absenteeism and supporting those that feel burnt out.

PepTalk's platform utilizes behavioral science to identify pain points within each organization's teams and provide action items that help employees stay engaged with their work for the long haul. If you're interested in implementing a strategy to reduce excessive absenteeism today, get in touch to get started!

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