Workplace Absenteeism: Costs & causes, and how to effectively support employees

Leading B2B comparison website Expert Market has conducted a new study into the causes and costs of rising Employee Absenteeism and has highlighted the most important ways to support employees and reduce workplace absences. 

Here are the main statistical findings:

51% of employees feel disconnected or unstimulated by their work and are more likely to avoid going to the officeWorkplace stress and burnout cost US businesses around $500 billion every year, and 550 million lost workdaysDisengagement costs employers an estimated $500 billion in the US annually 

As part of the study, Expert Market also spoke to 50 North American and European businesses in December 2022 and January 2023 about their employee absence. Long COVID (56%) and mental health/workplace stress (66%) were cited as the main reasons for it. Other sicknesses (28%) and Family care (26%) were also highlighted as reasons.

The companies were also asked about their initiatives to combat absenteeism. The findings show that 48% of companies had a remote/flexible working policy. Furthermore, 34% of companies had a wellness program as a part of their new initiatives to reduce employee absenteeism. 

Hybrid work trends and workplace wellness programs that promote a healthier work-life balance are helping to aid physically and mentally unwell patients to reduce absenteeism. They’ve also been shown to increase workplace happiness and productivity. 

As found in the Expert Market Workplace Study of 125 companies from August 2022, 92% saw positive benefits of flexible working options with 66% stating productivity increases and 60% stating a better work-life balance.

The rise of recent workplace trends like Quiet Quitting and the Great Resignation indicate that a great number of employees have lost connection with their work. As a result, workplace absence increases and productivity vastly decreases. Much of these new phenomena can also be attributed to the changing workplace and the desire for more flexibility in regard to working conditions.

It could also positively impact hiring and retaining employees. Many employees now actively seek roles that take this into account as well as other wellbeing benefits such as mental health support and monetary bonus schemes. 

Expert Market’s Senior Business Solutions Expert,Duncan Lambden comments: 

“COVID-19 had a massive impact on all facets of life, but work life was possibly hit hardest. After seeing what life was like with a more equalized work-life balance, people were very reluctant to revert back to the pre-COVID method. Companies need to give people a reason to stay engaged with their jobs, as people care more about happiness and balance than ever before. Of course, businesses benefit from this too, as an engaged worker is far more productive.”

The guide also lists the top ways to reduce absences and support employees

Understanding the problem: Understanding why an employee is absent for any reason is essential. After all, you can’t provide support if you don’t understand the problem.Return-to-work interviews: Research shows that return-to-work interviews positively impact absence rates. These meetings can be informal chats in the kitchen, asking what happened and explaining what’s expected going forward. Having a wellness program: Stress, burnout, bullying, and mental health days are some of the key factors that can impact absenteeism. Implementing wellness programs helps take better care of staff, and leads to increased productivity levels in the office.Training and development: Providing opportunities for personal growth and development is a core motivation for employees. If an employee feels their own personal growth is supported, they’re more likely to stick around and upskill in an environment that encourages it.Offer remote/flexible work environments: Empowering employees to work from wherever they like means that many of them are more comfortable doing some work while absent or in recovery from an illness. Removing the stress and fatigue of commuting in and out of an office also helps employees recover faster.

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