How to Encourage Employee Attendance at Work

Use These 5 Steps to Address Unscheduled Absences

People in conference room missing their absent coworker.
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Attendance is critical in many customer-facing jobs. Poor attendance saps the morale of employees, costs employers overtime expenses and reduces employee engagement. Poor attendance takes supervisory time and attention and often results in disciplinary action.

You can manage employee attendance to reduce attendance problems. You do need to take it on as an important component of any management or supervisory job.

Here's how to manage and encourage attendance. Use these five steps to encourage employee attendance at work.

5 Steps to Encourage Employee Attendance

First, you must have a way to track the time people take off from work so that the integrity of your Paid Time Off (PTO) policy, your sick leave policy, and/or your paid vacation policy is ensured. This also ensures that the time-off-rules are the same for every employee which is important for the sense of workplace fairness and justice.

When employees are managed across departments, you need to ensure that what John experiences in the warehouse is the same policy that Mary experiences in the office. Employees notice when employees are treated differently and this disparate treatment creates problems with motivation and engagement.

This is especially important to manage unscheduled absences for which many workplaces have trouble with work coverage.

Encouraging employee attendance is important for any customer facing workstation. Attendance is also critical when one employee's work is dependent on the work of the prior employee in jobs such as manufacturing or assembling products.

Teachers, customer support specialists, technical support providers, health care professionals, and other direct service employees are examples of employees who have workstations that employees must staff on a daily basis.

Otherwise, employers are at a loss to schedule and find staff replacements to do their work.

This attendance includes timely arrival at their workstation as well. For example, if a nurse is late for work in the intensive care unit, the nurse from the prior shift cannot leave to go home for a well-deserved rest. If an employee is expected to staff a middle station on an assembly line, either one employee has to work at two stations which is inconvenient and can even endanger the employee or the employer has to find a replacement.

You Must Commit to Managing Absenteeism

Second, and probably most importantly, you need to manage absenteeism and encourage employee attendance. This means that the employee needs to call in directly to the supervisor who is trained to manage absenteeism. This starts with the personal call and the supervisor telling the employee that he or she will be missed and describing the impact of their absence on the workplace.

Each absence ends with the supervisor personally welcoming the employee back to work, encouraging employee attendance in the future, and once again, emphasizing the impact of the employee's absence on the workplace and their coworkers.

You are not holding this conversation in a blaming tone of voice—after all, many employee absences are legitimate and necessary—you are genuinely welcoming the employee back to work and reinforcing the impact of an unscheduled absence.

Your conversation should, once again, describe the impact that the absence had on the employees and the workplace.

Enable Workplace Flexibility Whenever Possible

Third, if possible, allow flexibility with schedules in your workplace so that an employee with an early doctor's appointment or a sick child, as examples, can work later or come earlier to make up the time.

Women, unfortunately, according to U.S. Department of Labor figures, experience more attendance problems related to family matters. Especially single moms, who have no safety net of family or a partner to help with child-care related issues, struggle with attendance, in my experience.

So, this workplace flexibility might also include the ability to share jobs, schedule flexible days or hours, and work from home, or telecommute, under guidelines.

I'm not a huge fan of compensatory or comp time because I believe it encourages a clock-watching attitude. This is not in keeping with the mindset of accomplishing the whole job and goals that I look for in an exempt or salaried employee. But, exempt jobs are also the jobs that will most frequently allow flexibility for the employee and the employer.

Rewards and Recognition for Employees

Fourth, rewards and recognition for positive employee attendance can make a difference. While you don't want people feeling as if their employer must pay them extra for doing their job, you do want them to know that you appreciate and respect their positive attendance.

In some cases, especially with non-exempt employees, and to reduce unscheduled absences, you may want to build actual monetary rewards into your employee attendance policy. These policies emphasize rewarding attendance over a certain number of days. You do, with the employee recognition portion of your attendance policy, want to emphasize the days of attendance, not the act of lowering absences.

Too many attendance policies focus on the punishment side of the equation. More emphasis on rewards for positive attendance might give you more bang for your bucks. Nevertheless, a successful, motivational attendance policy must focus on both.

Provide Consequences if the Employee Fails to Attend Work in a Timely Manner

Finally, as with any employment responsibility, an employee must experience consequences if the employee is failing in his or her work attendance. To whom are the consequences the most important? To all of the employees who have good attendance, work hard, and find their personal morale and motivation affected by people who have poor attendance.

Progressive discipline is critical, starting with coaching and feedback, and performing the steps in attendance management listed above. Your attending employees will thank you.

You can more effectively manage attendance if you follow these steps to reduce absenteeism.

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