Manage Employee Absence to Save Costs, Boost Productivity

It has happened to almost every employer. One or two employees tend to miss work far more frequently than everyone else. Productivity goes down, morale falls and strife ensues. Beyond that, employers can wind up spending a lot of time and effort handling the administrative aspects of frequent employee absences. Then there’s the cost of covering the tasks those employees handle.

But New York-based human resources consulting firm Buck Consultants tells clients to take an active role in dealing with employee absenteeism issues. When this key but often overlooked area is managed properly, employers can cut costs, improve employee productivity and get a leg up on the competition. Employee absence is a huge cost to employers. A Marsh Risk Consulting study a few years ago showed that for every $1 employers spend on payroll, they spend 15 cents on employee absence. Business owners can cut down on those costs by tuning up their time-off policies to lower the amount and duration of employee absences. Employers can offer incentives and develop ways to encourage employees to return to work as soon as they are physically and medically able to do so.

Education programs for both managers as well as employees can help both understand how the disability and time-off programs work and what the roles and responsibilities are for both employees and employers. It can also be helpful to let employees know what the ultimate cost of their absence is to the company. Employers can also encourage employees to get the proper care when they’re sick or injured. Businesses can make health care recommendations and act as an advocate for the affected employee. Employers should develop transitional work assignments to allow employees to return to work as soon as possible. These should be meaningful jobs for both the employee and the employer. But they might involve less physical stress than the person’s typical job. Companies can also develop benefits programs to help cut down on employee absences. Options include re-evaluating paid-time-off, or PTO, programs and putting processes in place to eliminate the possibility of double-dipping.

Business owners might also want to consider redesigning their workplace. They can tie employees’ physical capabilities to certain job requirements and ensure employee safety. Segregating tasks and rotating jobs can help lessen the risk of on-the-job injury. Finally, employers should measure the results of their employee absence reduction efforts. Compare it with results at peer companies. Share results with employees and make it a companywide goal to reach certain standards. Offer incentives for the entire company if certain goals are met. Employee absence is a major cost for most companies, although it often goes overlooked and unaddressed. But if employers take the time to make it a priority, they can dramatically lower those costs while improving employee morale. At the same time, they’ll generate more productivity for the entire company. Most importantly, they’ll have a healthier work force at their disposal.

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