Top Causes of Absenteeism in the Workplace

Posted by Michelle Chaffee on Apr 30, 2019 2:47:42 PM

Reducing absenteeism rates is a top priority for nearly every company and for good reason.  Absenteeism has a negative impact on profits, productivity, and morale of the workforce as a whole. Aside from the actual employee where the absenteeism originates, a trickle effect happens to the employees who are filling in for an absent coworker. They are less productive, less engaged, and sometimes feel under-appreciated and can burn out more quickly.  

Not to mention, every year, the costs of absenteeism surpasses $1 billion dollars in almost every industry. No company is immune to its effects. Companies with employees who have higher levels of education and experience pay an even higher price when employees are absent.

To make an impact on rates of absenteeism, employers and HR managers need to understand the root causes and take action to correct them. Here are the top causes of absenteeism in the workplace.


A Poor Relationship with Their Supervisor or Manager 

Employees who don’t feel appreciated or understood by their direct superior are more likely to miss work. This is especially true if they are experiencing a personal hardship that requires they take time off or the need to seek support resources.  When employees are worried their job may be in jeopardy because of a manager who lacks empathy or understanding, they are more likely to become disengaged, keep their problems to themselves, and stay home when the stress gets to be too much.

Caregiver Responsibilities

The responsibility of providing care to a loved one who is ill or disabled is one of the top causes of absenteeism in the United States.  More than half the workforce is providing care for a loved one in some capacity, and they spend an average of 24 hours a week engaged in those caregiving duties.  Working caregivers indicate that caregiving is their biggest stressor; however, most do not share this stress with their employer for fear of missing advancement opportunities or even being terminated.  Working caregivers encompass every age, socio-economic, gender, and racial demographic. In fact, 25% of caregivers are millennials who are sometimes caring for more than one person such as a grandparent and child of their own.  Tasks such as missing work to take a loved one to a medical appointment, coordinating care, or searching for professional resources can seem simple, but over time they lead to increased levels of stress.

top causes of absenteeism in the workplace

Stress or Burnout

High levels of stress and a poor work-life balance are another cause of absenteeism.  When employees are engaged in meeting or exceeding expectations at work, this sometimes leads to longer hours and less attention to other responsibilities such as family or even physical well-being. The reverse can also be true. Employee responsibilities at home can lead to decreased energy and engagement at work. Both of these scenarios can leave workers feeling like they aren’t meeting expectations, plunging morale and forcing absenteeism. This can be exacerbated by a work culture that doesn’t acknowledge the importance of self-care or recognize common stressors. The usual suspects of stress include caregiving duties as discussed above, critical health events, or financial challenges.

Illness or injury

Unfortunately, unexpected physical illness or injury can occur without notice, leaving employees no choice but to miss work.  This can be a result of their own injury or illness or that of a loved one. A diagnosis of a physical disease can be devastating emotionally as well, leaving employees worried about many unknowns of how they will manage the future.  Employers can do things to try to keep employees at peak health so they may minimize the risk of developing certain preventable illnesses such as wellness programs or gym discounts. Some diseases such as cancer, infections, and neuromuscular diseases, though, are sudden and unexpected causes of absenteeism that employers can do very little about.  Giving employees the time they need to recover or help loved ones and reiterating the support opportunities and resources available to them makes all the difference.

Addressing Presenteeism in the Workplace

Many of the causes of absenteeism can be minimized by offering a combination of resources, support, and solutions such as Connected Caregiving powered by alska.  Additionally, educating management on how to be supportive, empathetic, and proactive in making employees aware of the solutions available creates a culture of caring.  When employees know what to expect, should a crisis occur, they are less likely to feel increased stress regarding job security and more likely to feel confident and able to handle the tasks at hand.  Creating an environment of support and encouragement increases the likelihood employees will want to come to work or return when they are able.

Topics: Absenteeism