Absence management: Methods for reducing worker absenteeism

Published on 6th November, 2018 in Employee Engagement, Empower, Workforce Management

Absenteeism is costing Australia’s businesses $33.06 billion per year. This stat comes from the DHS National Absence Management & Wellbeing Study, which highlights the growing cost of absenteeism in Australia’s workforce. ‘Growing’ here is the operative word: 40 per cent of survey respondents said their absence levels increased in the 12 months prior to the survey.

Understanding the statistics is one thing, but fixing them is another. To help your contact centre, we discuss four absence management strategies below:

1. Identify the root cause

Absenteeism is not a problem, it’s a symptom of a problem. Most likely a variety of problems, compounding together. Issues that can cause absenteeism include:

  1. Low morale or engagement levels.
  2. Stress or burnout.
  3. Workplace conflicts (e.g. bullying or harassment).
  4. Illness, injury or disability.
  5. Work/life conflicts (e.g. the needs of work and the needs of, say, childcare, conflicting with each other).
  6. Limited consequences for lack of attendance.
  7. Time theft (aka taking elongated breaks, regularly leaving early or turning up late).

Awareness is the first step to solving a problem. Take time to investigate what issues your contact centre may be suffering from. This can be done through regular 1:1 personal sessions between staff and their team leader, and through anonymous feedback surveys.

2. Create an attendance policy

A clear attendance policy has two major benefits:

  1. It sets out your expectations for attendance so staff and their managers know what is and is not considered acceptable.
  2. It helps you benchmark individual attendance levels against the company expectation, so you can measure their performance. Without this, unconscious bias or favouritism may lead you to challenge some staff more than others.

What goes into an attendance policy?

An attendance policy should include comprehensive descriptions of your expectations around annual leave, sick leave, what constitutes tardiness, leave request procedures, rules around special leave (i.e. bereavement or jury duty) and so on.

This should be included in your employee handbook and all staff should be able to find and access it easily.

Employee wellness programs combine policies, perks and initiatives to encourage staff to better look after themselves.

3. Consider employee wellness programs

Employee wellness programs are typically a combination of policies, perks and initiatives that encourage staff to look after their physical and mental health. This could include discounts at gyms or medical centres, health insurance packages, policies designed to promote better self-care, and environment support (e.g. desk ergonomics, green spaces and so on).

These programs have been found to work. In a Comcare review, it was found that wellness programs such as smoking cessation interventions, physical activity and/or nutrition interventions, and changes to organisational culture showed real health-related benefits to employees.

4. Offer more flexibility

There’s a growing call for flexible working around the world. In fact, it is law in Australia to allow at least some degree of flexible working to existing employees who meet the criteria set out by the Fair Work Ombudsman (criteria such as being a parent, having a disability, and so on).

Can your business handle flexible working arrangements? Some contact centre leaders find it difficult to accommodate variable hours or working from home due to the schedule-intensive nature of the job. Staff levels must be carefully planned and easy to predict in order for the business to handle call volumes.

However, this is not an unsolvable problem – it just requires a technology upgrade. Consider investigating workforce management solutions that enable smart scheduling and easy shift swapping, as this will help you encourage staff to balance their working lives and personal lives without impacting your company’s bottom line or the customer experience.

Choose Call Design to help you

If you aren’t sure you can do this alone, it’s time to seek help. Call Design is one of Australia’s leading workforce optimisation consultancies, having worked hand in hand with Australian businesses of all sizes since 1999. We have an array of WFO tools, solutions and training courses to help your business find and improve the root causes of your absenteeism issues.

To learn more, contact us today.