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Dealing with attendance issues in your workplace

Are you sitting comfortably? Welcome to my series of podcasts that will help you to navigate those inevitable difficult events at work that are part of being a manager.  

Today I want to talk about dealing with attendance issues  

In an ideal world, no one would need to take time off work or be late for work; but the fact is in real life, it happens. People get sick or have problems with childcare, and many companies will allow some leeway, depending on their policy. Problems arise, however, when people take days off when they’re not sick, or turn up to work late and do this continuously.  

As a manager, you must deal with this behaviour as soon as you can, even if talking to an otherwise excellent employee about their attendance is difficult. If you fail to deal with attendance issues, it can not only damage the company’s bottom line, it can also upset other employees who attend work and who are always on time.  

But attendance issues are not just about being absent from work, they can include arriving late and leaving early and taking extra long breaks. All of these behaviours cost businesses in terms of lost productivity and damage to morale.  

Most managers will have to deal with attendance issues occasionally, but if you find that you’re increasingly having those problems with good employees, you might have to investigate the underlying causes more carefully. Could employees be bored, suffering from burnout, or struggling with difficult relationships with colleagues (and maybe even with you?) 

Let’s look at the problems that poor attendance at work can cause.

It affects continuity.

When an employee is absent from work frequently, teams can’t be continuously productive. Other staff might have to assume their responsibilities or replacement staff might have to be drafted in which disrupts workflow.  

It can affect the performance of other employees.

If employees who are frequently absent are seen to be ‘getting away with it,’ this might negatively influence others who might feel like they can do the same. This leads to lower productivity, lower morale among the employees who have to take on extra work, and a higher staff turnover.  

It affects business growth.

Rather than growing professionally within their role, a frequently absent employee might fail to become proficient enough in their job role and so potential individual and business growth is affected.  

So to avoid this, you need to deal with attendance issues, and here’s how.

Make your expectations clear  

Sometimes, employees don’t know how to request time off using the correct procedures, and they may not realise how much of an impact that calling in sick has on the business. Make sure everyone has access to your company’s sickness or attendance policy, which should outline sickness procedure, how to request leave in exceptional circumstances, and the consequences of breaching the terms of the policy. Set a good example by following these procedures to the letter yourself.  

Maintain accurate records of lateness or absence 

This will make it much easier when you come to speak to someone about their attendance. If you can present them with facts, they’re much more likely to accept what you have to say.  

Notice any trends  

Does the employee in question call in sick frequently on a Friday or a Monday? Do they take time off near payday? Does an employee arrive 15 minutes late every day because of traffic, or do they just not make the effort to leave on time?  

Is attendance an individual problem or does it involve multiple people? 

If you need to speak to an individual about their attendance, arrange a one to one meeting. The same rule should apply if there are a few repeat offenders. If you’re dealing with multiple people, have a team meeting. Explain how absence and lateness is affecting the business and preventing it from reaching its goals. It may be a good idea to set attendance targets, then offer the team a reward if it’s met.  

Do make allowances 

If an employee genuinely has personal issues going on and they need time off, they’ll be more motivated and committed to the company if you honour their request. However, requests for time off should be assessed on a case by case basis, so that employees don’t take advantage of this allowance unnecessarily.  

Encourage work-life balance  

Employees who have a poor work-life balance are more likely to feel burnt out and resentful that work takes up so much of their time. They may then feel they are justified in taking time off, arriving at work late or leaving early. Encourage people to take regular breaks, to leave work on time, and to avoid dealing with work tasks in the evening when they’re at home.  

Promote a team mentality 

Take steps to encourage healthy relationships between employees, and of course, you and your employees. Not getting on with a manager is one of the main reasons people give for leaving a job. Think about organising social events, retreats, and team-building events to help employees get to know each other and to help build trust. If employees have harmonious relationships in the workplace, they’re less likely to be absent from work.  

Promote physical and mental wellbeing 

This can help reduce absences due to stress or poor physical health. This could include initiatives like subsidised gym memberships, weight loss schemes, smoking cessation classes, or meditation and relaxation sessions.  

A successful business is built on skilled, committed and motivated employees who are willing to pull in the same direction to help it achieve its goals. When that doesn’t happen, it’s the task of the manager to investigate underlying issues then deal with them in a timely manner.

It may not be easy, but the continued survival and success of the business in difficult economic times may depend on it.  

I hope that you got some good tips from today’s podcast, and I’ll see you next time. for the next one in the series which looks at how to overcome fear in the workplace.  

This is The People Mentor, signing off. 

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