Do you have an employee who is a great worker … when they decide to show up? Attendance plays a key role in successful work performance. Increasingly, however, showing up on time, ready to work seems to be viewed as optional. There’s no single cause for this changing work ethic. Generational values can play a role, but this isn’t a Millennial or Gen Z issue.
And of course, there are many perfectly legitimate reasons why an employee may not be able to come to work. People have personal or family emergencies that come up. Cars break down. Occasionally, people even hit that snooze button one time too many. But when absenteeism or tardiness becomes the norm rather than the exception, it’s a problem for the whole team.
The Toxic Effects of Absenteeism
The obvious consequence of an employee not coming to work is lost productivity. If an employee isn’t there, they aren’t getting their work done. Depending on how time-sensitive the employee’s tasks are, this may or may not be an immediate issue. But when an employee regularly misses work, that slack has to be taken up by other team members.
Having to re-shuffle their own job responsibilities to cover someone else’s work creates an additional loss of productivity. Additionally, supervisors must make time to re-assign tasks and bring the person covering up-to-speed. Overloading employees, especially on a regular basis, creates stress that can lead to resentment, stress and eventually burnout. That burnout often becomes the trigger for additional absences, creating a vicious cycle.
Employees dealing with unfamiliar tasks, or who must divide their attention between their own work and that of a colleague, are also more likely to make mistakes and less likely to fully engage with customers.
Turning Things Around
So, is there a way to motivate employees to show up for work? Sometimes taking employees aside and talking to them confidentially does the trick. Some employees just need a little reminder that “Hey, if you want to keep working here, you have to show up on time and regularly.”
Other employees may have underlying issues that trigger poor attendance. As I already mentioned, burnout is a leading cause of absenteeism. Burnout isn’t always irreversible. As a leader, you can help an overwhelmed employee rekindle their passion for their job. A lateral move can also be a win-win for employer and employee.
Lack of a support system is another common cause of absences. In the era of Facebook friends, finding someone who can actually take care of a child who’s too sick for school or daycare can be problematic. Employees, especially those who have recently located to the area, may need help building a strong support system.
Flexible work options such as working from home or shifting work hours can also help employees juggle their personal and professional responsibilities. Be cautious about offering this option, however. Flexible work requires a high level of self-discipline and focus to be successful. Working from home also comes with its own set of distractions.
Drawing the Line
Unfortunately, not every employee with attendance issues is willing or able to implement these solutions. When that’s the case, the best solution for everyone involved is to wish them well and let them go. After all, no one’s irreplaceable.