How to Manage Absence Effectively?

Absence it is said makes the heart grow fonder. But, when an employee absents himself or herself this is definitely not going to be the case. Absence of employees causes the loss of millions of dollars to the economy. Millions of work days are also lost as a result of employee absence. Absence is genuine in two third of the cases while the others just do it for non-genuine reasons. While employee abstention cannot be prevented according to management training programs and management training courses, there should be an effective mechanism to deal with the absence. Therefore there is scope for organizations to improve their attendance. But, how to go about it, is another matter altogether.

Again according to management training guidelines a successful absence management mechanism must take into account the different causes of absences. Policies to manage absence must be based on these causes. It is important to realize that employees do fall ill and that they need time off from work to recover from their illness. A certain percentage of absenteeism is unavoidable. A good absence management mechanism must take this fact into consideration and must offer support to those people who are indisputably ill. In fact, support should be in such a way that the mechanism makes it easier and faster for an employee to come back to work. Along with these various steps have to be taken to arrest non-genuine leave taking. There is always a doubt as to whether a punitive or well being focused approach should be considered in case of non genuine leave taker. The best course would be to use a combination of two factors.

To develop a good absence management mechanism, management training programs and management training courses encourage people to look into the causes of absenteeism. According to research, causes of absenteeism can be broadly classified into four categories.

1. The general health and lifestyle of an employee is something that affects the attendance of employees in the work place. For instance almost all studies carried out indicate that there is a link between smoking and leave of absence. While developing the policy to manage absenteeism it is important to take into account the medical factors on one hand as well as non medical factors. Studies have also shown that employers who support health education programs as well as provide health meals, aid in giving up smoking all profit from a decrease in employee absence rates.

2. Sometimes factors at work place affect an employee. Studies have shown that absence rates are lower when people work in small teams rather than individually. Absence rate increases in workplaces where risks of injury are more. Similarly if it takes more time to travel to workplace the more the likelihood of absenteeism. Long hours also adversely affect attendance. Management can tackle this by encouraging team work, increasing awareness of health and safety issues and discouraging the working of excessive hours.

3. Attitude to work is another factor. Sensitive handling of change, the behavior of the line manager, commitment of the organization etc., are all factors that can influence the attitude to workplace.

4. Gender is another important factor. Women seem to be absent more than men. This is because women are more burdened with domestic responsibilities than men. Again things like flexible working hours etc., helps women cope much better.

Management training programs and management training courses have identified some key elements for an absence management policy or mechanism. The key elements are

• the culture of attendance in the organization
• clearly defined roles
• clearly defined procedures

Absence should not be taken as inevitable and unavoidable in any organization. This should be taken care in management training itself. The attendance policy should be made clear to all staff. An individual falling sick or any other kind of need can be taken care by the line manager and HR manager. If the person needs an extended leave period it can be discussed with senior managers. The role of the people managing the attendance policy should also be clearly specified if the policy has to be implemented successfully. The success or failure of any absence management policy lies in the hands of the people implementing it and they are the line mangers. They have to be well trained under various management training programs and courses on this aspect.