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Employees’ absenteeism in the workplace: How to handle unscheduled absences

Unscheduled absences are expensive for the economy and specific companies. According to Forbes, the annual cost of productivity losses caused by absenteeism in the workplace reaches the figure of $24.2 billion, depending on the occupation.

Employees’ absenteeism in the workplace: How to handle unscheduled absences

Friday March 23, 2018,

4 min Read


There are several ways to reduce their negative effect on productivity and work process. How?

The key to solving this problem is understanding its causes. Let’s go through the main reasons of unscheduled absences and ways to prevent them.

1. Illnesses and injuries

It is (unfortunately) not possible to prevent this kind of absences at all, so the main issue here is dealing with their consequences.

The main problem here is that the employees fail to notify their managers about unexpected sick days or tardiness caused by sickness. Mostly, this happens because there’s no defined procedure of informing the manager about this type of absences. Another reason is the lack of a convenient system that allows informing the team about last-minute schedule changes.

What to do: implement a procedure that defines employees’ actions for taking an unexpected sick leave. Also, consider adopting an absence management system that allows informing managers and coworker about absences and tardiness.

2. Child and elder care issues

Another frequent cause of unscheduled absences that is hard to handle. The employees who face this kind of issues are often unable to give an advanced notice that they need a day off, so it’s one of the main sources of unpredictable absences.

What to do: consider introducing a flexible schedule or work from home for the employees who struggle with such issues, if their responsibilities allow that.

3. Bullying

Sounds like a school issue, but in fact, it often happens in work life. And it is the case of absenteeism in the workplace. Employees tend to avoid work, just like kids avoid school when being bullied.

The important thing for a manager here is being able noticing the problems of work environment and relationships in the team. Receiving feedback from the team members is crucial for identifying and managing bullying problems.

What to do: make sure there are no bullies or “toxic” people on the team, or there are ways to manage their behavior. Be the part of the work environment to identify bullying issues as early as possible.

4. Lack of motivation

Disengagement and lack of motivation tend to cause unscheduled absences even in healthy work environments. Some of the employees who are facing disengagement issues don’t feel appreciated enough, others just don’t like what they do. Unfair treatment or payment conditions can also be the reason.

What to do: the first step here is finding out why the employee is not motivated enough to come into work. Then, the solution involves finding efficient ways of motivation: recognition, rewards, feedback are the most important of them.

5. Burnout

Being the reason for performance issues and low productivity, burnout also causes absenteeism. Its reasons can range from monotonous work to constant overworking, but the consequences are the same: productivity decrease, stress, cynicism, and resulting unscheduled absences.

What to do: identify the reasons for the problem and encourage the employee to solve the burnout issue.

6. Lack of a consistent absence policy

Employees tend to not inform their managers about their absences or tardiness if they don’t know how to proceed if something prevents them from coming in to work. Whether there’s no consistent absence policy in the company, or it is not explained well enough, the reason is the same: people don’t give notice that they are absent or come in late.

What to do: develop and implement an absence management policy, and explain to your employees how to notify the team of their absences and schedule changes. If it involves using special software tools, organize an onboarding process to make sure that each team member is familiar with the software understands the procedure.


There are many reasons for unscheduled absences and tardiness, and each one of them requires an individual solution. However, in any case, there’s a way to minimize the effects of absenteeism by 1) developing an absence policy and 2) implementing a leave management system that streamlines communication-related to the employees’ schedules and presence at the workplace.