Reducing absenteeism

Absenteeism encompasses employee absences due to illness, poor motivation or operational reasons. The monitoring, analysis and permanent reduction of absenteeism within a company is a strategic task. In the process, the holistic orientation of the organization in relation to health is further developed.

Absenteeism in companies

According to an annual report on the structure and development of sick leave among employees in the German economy, a nationwide sick leave rate of 5.4 percent was recorded in 2020. Thus, on average, about 5.4 people out of every 100 employed are off work sick. The days of absence per person amount to just under 20 calendar days per year. In 2020, more than one fifth of absences was due to musculoskeletal disorders (22.1%), followed by mental illness (12%). Days off sick due to mental illness have increased by 56% since 2010. The WHO expects a further increase in mental illness, which is why prevention will be of great importance in the future. According to estimates by the German Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 712.2 million days of sick leave caused economic production losses of 88 billion euros in 2019.

Recognizing early indicators with systematic absence management

Absenteeism is only the visible part of the iceberg as absent employees are conspicuous by their lack of work performance. But what about employees who perform at a reduced level due to health impairments (emotional, cognitive, physical) or even a lack of motivation? These individuals are present, so they aren’t included in the absenteeism statistics, but they are significantly less productive. Healthy absenteeism management creates a systematic and sustainable way of dealing with sick and unhealthy employees in the company. This means that early indicators of employees’ state of health, such as well-being, physical health, or anxiety, concentration or sleep disorders, can be identified and addressed in good time.

Healthy management of absences - reducing absenteeism sustainably

By influencing workplace culture, leadership, work-life balance or the work climate, absenteeism and other consequences such as early retirement, occupational accidents or voluntary employee turnover can be reduced, thus saving substantial economic costs. Absenteeism management includes various building blocks:  

1. Recording absences
In order to record absences transparently and comprehensibly, a standardized sickness reporting process is needed.
2. Analysing absences
A precise analysis of absenteeism can enable the identification of key areas and the development of appropriate measures. It is important to establish the reasons for absences in the company.
3. Processes for dealing with employees who are ill or have health problems
Standardized and transparent processes should be put in place for all those involved. For example, processes are needed for dealing with sick employees after their return to work and with people affected by health problems.
4. Healthy leadership & health talks
Companies should ensure ongoing communication with employees and managers on the topics of health and illness. This can take the form of health talks between managers and employees, for example.
5. Sustainability strategy
To ensure a successful long-term reduction in absences, any procedures implemented should always be subject to ongoing review so that necessary adjustments can be made or additional measures put into practice.

Promoting health - minimizing absenteeism

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Managers as role models
Managers serve as an example in relation to working when sick or not taking time off. A leader's self-care can encourage employees to adopt healthy patterns of behaviour themselves.
Health should not be a taboo subject - whether physical or mental. If you are concerned about the health of a colleague or manager, find out about relevant procedures for dealing with this that exist in your company.
Do not ignore absenteeism
A company that ignores absenteeism could potentially be facing a wave of resignations. Absences provide important indications of employee stress that should be heeded by employers.

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