According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, unplanned absences cost American businesses an average of 2.8 million workdays each year – equivalent to the loss of 74 billion dollars. With the costs of running a business already steadily increasing, corporations cannot afford not to address the issue of absenteeism.

Absenteeism affects businesses multi-dimensionally. Corporations are impacted financially due to absences and needing to pay employees even when they are not in the office. Costs increase due to loss of productivity, the cost of hiring temporary labor, and time and money spent on tracking absences, and recruiting and training temporary employees. It is also shown that there is a direct correlation between absences and turnover, meaning if an employee has many absences they are more likely to leave a job.

Why are employees missing so many days of work? About two thirds of employee absenteeism is due to issues other than illness, including stress, being overworked, dissatisfaction on the job, a lack committed to the workplace and insufficient challenge in their work.

However, because of broad policies around time off, there is no simple way of tracking what is specifically keeping employees out of the office. Are they not showing up because of illness, another family member’s illness, or poor health in general? It is unclear whether employees are missing work because of legitimate illnesses or other underlying issues.

The most direct way to solve the ambiguity of absenteeism is to re-write policies that distinguish why employees are taking the day off. Having a clause within time-off policies allows for easier and clearer tracking when it comes to why employees are missing work.

In order to keep employees in the office and stop them from getting into the habit of calling out, they need to be motivated and engaged. Challenging and interesting work can go a long way, however a supportive and enticing culture is needed in order to keep employees engaged. A positive environment can help alleviate other issues such as stress, dissatisfaction and lack of commitment. A workplace that promotes teamwork, support and an overall positive culture will keep employees active and energized about their job, and will reduce absenteeism.

Kay Monks

Kay is a senior at American University in Washington, D.C, where she is enrolled in the Health Promotion Education program. Kay has been an intern with AdvancingWellness since early 2011.