Constructive Solutions to Worker Absenteeism

Written by:
Joshua Alvarez
July 20, 2022

Absenteeism is a frustrating problem. But the solution isn’t to lash out; it’s to lean in.

While it may sometimes be necessary to impose penalties to discourage absenteeism, in most cases, the solution is support. Business and personal problems — which, in the case of absenteeism, tend to be intertwined — are better solved with carrots than sticks.

Let’s take a look at constructive solutions to the top reasons for worker absenteeism:

1. Health Insurance

What’s the most common reason you miss work? Chances are, it’s because you’re sick.

Worker illness and injury costs employers a quarter of a trillion dollars per year. While you can’t prevent every sickness and spill, you can help workers afford to take care of themselves.

Like everyone else, low-income workers need access to healthcare. Programs like Medicaid can help them get care — including, in some states, dental and vision — while staying within their budget. 

Also read: Why Medicaid Beats Private Health Plans in Member Satisfaction

2. Alternative Transportation

The reality is, low-income workers may not possess cars, much less reliable ones.

You can’t afford to buy every worker a car or pick them up for work every day. Punishing them for car troubles isn’t productive, either. But you can provide transportation benefits that are marketable and effective.

What about a bicycle incentive? Or a city bus pass? Give them a way to get to work, and get an edge on your competitors’ benefits package. 

3. Paid Time Off

Fairly or not, workers may call in because a personal need or interest conflicts with their work.

Obviously, employment is a commitment. But giving employees more paid time off might be better for them and better for your business.

Research published in Harvard Business Review found workers who took 11 or more days off per year had a 65% chance of receiving a raise or bonus, a marker of performance. Those who took less than 10 days had a 35% chance, or barely half as much.

If more paid time off isn’t in the budget, what about unpaid time or flexible breaks? Sometimes, it’s just about getting to the doctor or bank during business hours.

4. A Sense of Purpose

The most frustrating reason of all for absenteeism is a lack of buy-in. 

According to Gartner, the “Great Resignation” is really the “Great Reflection.” Workers who struggle with purpose tend to be less committed to their work.

Also read: It’s the “Great Resignation” and Your Business is Cash-Strapped. Here’s How to Help Workers Stay.

Most jobs aren’t heroic. But every job is a part of the whole: Restaurant staff feed America. Retail and transportation workers run its supply chain. Healthcare workers save lives.

Create opportunities for patrons to say “thanks.” At a restaurant, that might be built-in gratuities. In a nursing home, it could be a family meet-and-greet.

It’s important to remember that a job isn’t just an income but an identity for workers. Most don’t want to risk either by missing work, but life happens. Help them roll with the punches, and you’ll find them more willing to get back in the ring.