Hooky

Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - CAREERS -

With the right mix, work can be such a winwin for ev­ery­one. Yet it’s ob­vi­ous more at­ten­tion needs to be paid to the is­sue of ab­sen­teeism, and or­ga­ni­za­tions need to take the lead.

Start with a good look at your pay­roll costs. Ab­sen­teeism im­pacts three ar­eas in your work­place. There are the di­rect costs for wages and ben­e­fits paid to em­ploy­ees while they are away. There are in­di­rect costs for loss of pro­duc­tiv­ity, and there are hard-dol­lar re­place­ment costs for those in­di­vid­u­als who cover for the ab­sen­tee em­ployee. Fi­nally, there are also ad­min­is­tra­tive costs that go along with any ab­sen­teeism.

Over­all, stud­ies show to­tal ab­sen­teeism costs can aver­age 35 per cent of base pay­roll, while in­ci­den­tal, un­planned ab­sences such as play­ing hooky costs an or­ga­ni­za­tion ap­prox­i­mately 5.8 per cent of pay­roll. In ad­di­tion, in­ci­den­tal, un­planned ab­sences across all em­ployee lev­els av­er­aged 5.4 days per em­ployee and re­sult in the high­est net loss of pro­duc­tiv­ity per day.

In most cases, re­place­ment work­ers con­sist of su­per­vi­sors and/or co-work­ers. In the case of su­per­vi­sors, this means a higher-paid em­ployee is do­ing the work of a lesser-paid em­ployee, which cre­ates an in­creased cost of 19 per cent per ab­sen­tee cov­er­age. In the case of a co­worker, this ex­tra work most of­ten re­sults in over­time costs of ap­prox­i­mately 15 per cent of the ab­sence cost.

Also, when em­ploy­ees work in teams and one key per­son is ab­sent, stud­ies show pro­duc­tiv­ity is re­duced an aver­age 22 per cent. This may be due to the fact that meet­ings are post­poned and projects are de­layed when the ab­sent em­ployee is not re­placed. How­ever, part of the dilemma for a leader is that insert­ing a new in­di­vid­ual into an es­tab­lished team for a brief pe­riod of­ten de­creases rather than in­creases pro­duc­tiv­ity.

At the same time, there are a good deal of hid­den costs that are dif­fi­cult to quan­tify. For in­stance, ab­sen­teeism in gen­eral, and es­pe­cially a chronic hooky player, can cause chal­lenges with em­ployee morale. When in­di­vid­u­als be­come over­worked, they be­come stressed and there­fore less pro­duc­tive.

The sit­u­a­tion will also cause dis­con­tent among em­ploy­ees as blam­ing and fin­ger­point­ing be­gin to oc­cur, es­pe­cially when key dead­lines are missed and group or cor­po­rate penal­ties are ap­plied.

So just how are or­ga­ni­za­tions man­ag­ing ab­sen­teeism, es­pe­cially un­planned, in­ci­den­tal ab­sences? Most or­ga­ni­za­tions now have some sort of flex-time poli­cies and/or per­sonal days, as well as for­mal at­ten­dance and ab­sence pro­ce­dures. How­ever, the chal­lenge for man­agers is ac­tu­ally en­forc­ing th­ese at­ten­dance poli­cies.

The key strat­egy is to act im­me­di­ately. Most mid-size and large or­ga­ni­za­tions are uti­liz­ing at­ten­dance-man­age­ment sys­tems that al­low man­agers to quickly iden­tify in­di­vid­u­als who ap­pear to be ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a prob­lem with at­ten­dance. Th­ese statis­tics are for­warded to a hu­man re­sources and/or depart­ment man­ager for fol­lowup. Again, ac­tion must be taken or the mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem will be in­ef­fec­tive.

On the other hand, smaller or­ga­ni­za­tions with­out stan­dard­ized and en­force­able hu­man­re­sources poli­cies and track­ing sys­tems may find them­selves chal­lenged with man­ag­ing at­ten­dance be­cause their records are of­ten in­ac­cu­rate.

In fact, a large per­cent­age of em­ployee com­plaints, or law­suits for that mat­ter, per­tain to in­ac­cu­rate and/or in­suf­fi­cient track­ing of em­ployee time, with the ma­jor­ity of cased re­solved in the em­ployee’s favour.

More for­ward-think­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions are tack­ling ab­sen­teeism by fo­cus­ing on the over­all health and well-be­ing of their em­ploy­ees. This in­cludes ele­ments such as flex­i­ble work poli­cies, telecom­mut­ing, health as­sess­ments, stopsmok­ing and weight-loss pro­grams, plus an­nual flu and blood-pres­sure clin­ics. In ad­di­tion, we see or­ga­ni­za­tions plac­ing pri­or­ity on em­ployee de­vel­op­ment as a means to at­tract, re­tain and en­gage work­ers.

On the other hand, at­ten­dance at work is an in­di­vid­ual em­ployee re­spon­si­bil­ity. In my view, at­ten­dance is a key ca­reer re­spon­si­bil­ity. That’s be­cause one of the most fre­quent per­for­mance mea­sures for any em­ployee is a record of at­ten­dance de­pend­abil­ity. How can you get ahead in your ca­reer if you aren’t at work? How can any­one de­pend on you?

Thus, it’s im­por­tant to be pro­fes­sional by at­tend­ing work on time and mak­ing ar­range­ments to deal with per­sonal af­fairs out­side of work hours when­ever pos­si­ble. It also means fol­low­ing your pol­icy guide­lines by pro­vid­ing early no­ti­fi­ca­tion of ab­sences, com­plet­ing re­port doc­u­ments as re­quired, pro­vid­ing med­i­cal con­fir­ma­tion and stay­ing in close touch with the su­per­vi­sor.

Now that or­ga­ni­za­tions have re­turned to a “se­ri­ous” busi­ness cy­cle, it’s time for both em­ploy­ers and em­ploy­ees to get se­ri­ous about at­ten­dance.

Play­ing hooky is just not ac­cept­able. Source: Cana­dian HR Re­porter, Kronos sur­vey “Sick and Tired”, news re­lease, May 15, 2013; Sur­vey on the To­tal Fi­nan­cial Im­pact of Em­ployee

Ab­sences, Mercer, June 2010.

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