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Absenteeism is Killing Business – Here’s How to Deal With It

By February 10, 2023Articles, Leadership

A huge problem if you’re a team leader in 2023 is absenteeism. If you have a business or you work in one, you’ll know that post-Covid a slight sniffle or a bad night’s sleep can see people tap out from work for the day. Our coping mechanisms are hyper sensitive. Not saying this is right or wrong, just that it’s a really common phenomenon.

What would I do if I had a business and absenteeism was causing it to suffer? Here’s my approach.

First step: if I had people consistently not showing up to work, I’d request a catch up with them to understand what’s going on. An old-school, face-to- face sit down. Not a Zoom. Not a phone call. The real thing.

I’d tell them, ‘I’d really appreciate you being honest with me so I can support you’. I’d listen, I’d ask questions where relevant. I’d have them explain what they think they need that could get them back to work and feeling motivated and energised. I’d ask if they need support in the shape of time off or having their priorities rejigged.

Then I’d help them understand the other side: the impact their absenteeism is having on the business and work flow.

Often, I think that’s a conversation people don’t want to have because it feels confronting, but the way to look at it is that it’s a valuable two-way information gathering exercise. They tell you why they don’t want to be at work and you put the flow on effect of that in perspective for them and offer supportive solutions.

The trick is to come at it from the angle that your intent is to support the person. Usually, people will feel respected if you genuinely ask them what needs to change for them, personally or professionally, to be engaged and show up.

If they’re not, if they’re aloof and nonchalant, your move is to double down on how much absences impact the business (“if everyone’s not here, others are overloaded or we don’t delivery to our service standards and the business suffers which means we suffer”) and to work out an agreement about how to move forward. It might then become a ‘maybe what you’re doing right now isn’t right for you’ discussion which takes courage because obviously you don’t want to lose people because it will take time and cost a bomb to get someone else in and trained up.

In the end though, if you have a problem and don’t tackle it, it becomes much bigger—and more often than not the person concerned will leave when the time is right for them anyway.

Overall, your mission is to focus on getting the best out of the person by really finding out their problem, not just applying band aid solutions.

One company I work with has implemented a policy where medical certificates are required for absences on Monday and Friday before and after a long weekend and for two consecutive workdays. And they’re seeing far fewer staff absences and normal productivity and results. Old school? Maybe. But effective.