Understanding the Underlying Causes of Absenteeism

Posted on

June 3rd, 2015


Employee absenteeism is a major cost for many employers. Absenteeism is more than someone taking a day off here or there for illness, family emergencies or other normal, valid and reasonable causes. Absenteeism is when an employee has excessive or habitual workdays missed every month. Absenteeism can have a major effect on company finances and morale.
Causes of Absenteeism

  • Illness

Injuries, illness and medical appointments are the most common reasons provided for missed work. An employee may call in “sick” for other reasons as well. Predictably, there is a dramatic spike in missed days due to illness during the cold and flu season.

  • Injury

Injuries can be sustained on the job or outside of work. In addition to acute injuries, chronic injuries such as neck and back pain are a common cause of absenteeism.

  • Child care and elder care

Most employees have a regular child care arrangement set up, but when that falls through or a child/elder is sick, parents are forced to miss work.

  • Bullying and harassment

Employees that are bullied or feel harassed by an employer are more likely to call in sick as an avoidance tactic.

  • Burnout, stress and low morale

When an employee is overworked or the workplace is stressful, they will call in sick more frequently. This also applies to personal stress. Feeling unappreciated is also a factor.

  • Depression

The leading cause of absenteeism is depression (National Institute of Mental Health.) Self-medicating with drugs and alcohol can be a result of chronic depression.

  • Disengagement

Disengagement occurs when employees are not committed to their jobs and lack the motivation to go to work.

  • Job search

Employees that are looking for other employment will call in sick to work on their resume, visit a recruiter or attend a job interview.

  • Incomplete shifts

Employees that are habitually late, take long breaks and leave the job early are considered to have a problem with absenteeism.
Occasional absences from work are inevitable; afterall, it’s human to get sick or injured or have to take care of family members. Everyone has personal business to attend to during normal business hours at times. Nevertheless, absenteeism can take a major toll on a company. Understanding the underlying causes of absenteeism is the first step to finding ways to reduce and respond to the problem.