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Absenteeism in the Workplace

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Absenteeism is a recurring problem for American employers. The following sample explores the topic of absenteeism in the workplace, it's causes and strategies employers pursue in order to lower the rate of the problem.  This is only one of the many custom writing services offered by our diverse and talented writers.

An examination of the problem and possible solutions

An ongoing problem for any company is absenteeism. It is the failure of an employee to report for work repeatedly and is a growing problem costing companies billions of dollars a year (Markussen, Roed, Rogeberg, Gaure, 2011). 

Company evaluation

It is important to examine the company itself and its demographics before creating a plan to deal with absenteeism. For example, if the company is smaller, there is a 25% lower chance of employee absenteeism (Markussen et al, 2011). Age is another crucial factor regarding absenteeism, especially absenteeism related to major and minor diseases. For instance, absenteeism due to major diseases slowly lowers with age until around age 45, when it begins rise (Markussen et al, 2011). For shorter-term absenteeism due to minor diseases (such as a cold or the flu), absentee rates take a sharp decline around age thirty until around age forty-five where they stabilize (Markussen et al, 2011).

Reasons for absenteeism

There are a number of reasons for chronic absenteeism, not all of them malicious or fear-based. The ones that are based on maliciousness or fear are the ones that are most prominent, but also the easiest for which to find solutions. However, in order to minimize workplace absenteeism as much as possible, it is necessary to analyze each major cause of absenteeism and create unique solutions for each one.

Categories of absenteeism 


  • Depression can be either personal or job-related (Bender, 2008). 
  • Depression is such a serious cause of absenteeism that about 5% of all employees reported depression affecting their absenteeism rates (Bender, 2008). 
  • Depression can snowball until the employee either quits the company or worse. 
  • Depression is difficult to fix on a broad scale, so solutions to it must be focused on the individual and his or her own unique needs. 

Illness and injury

  • These are not related to an employee's dissatisfaction or company related issues, so it can be difficult to find an effective solution for it. 


  • This is a form that some do not even consider a valid form of absenteeism, but arriving late for work on a regular basis adds up, and, financially, can be just as detrimental as absenteeism. 
  • Routine tardiness is usually the fault of the employee. Obviously it is difficult to anticipate things like traffic on certain days, but when it happens regularly, it is obvious that there is a problem. 

Strategies to offset absenteeism

Battling depression 

  • Set up an employee counseling program. 
  • Having discussions with the employee with an authority figure in the workplace can help the employee get his or her feelings out on the table, and give upper management a chance to possibly rectify some of these issues. 
  • If employee counseling proves ineffective, it may be necessary to offer a work-funded psychologist visit. The cost of this may initially be high, but in the long run, it will save the company money, assuming the employee is cured or shows improvement after visiting the psychologist. 
  • Failing psychiatric aid, giving the employee paid leave, or temporarily laying off the employee to afford time to bring issues under control may be necessary.
  • Time off can be useful if the depression is due to something relatively short-term, such as a breakup or death in the family. 

It must never be taken for granted that depression is a form of mental illness. While it is discouraged to pry into an employee's personal life, oftentimes it is necessary to analyze at least the basic cause of the depression in order to understand their needs. One possible way to do this is to ensure that depression, at least depression related to the job such as burnouts, do not occur in the first place. The best way to do this is to periodically evaluate each employee's satisfaction with particular aspects of the company. If an employee seems dissatisfied with a particular area, offer measures to help rectify the problem. Oftentimes, if an employee is already showing visible signs of depression, it is too late to prevent it from costing the company on at least some level.

Treating and preventing illness and injury

  • The best way to deal with excessive absenteeism in relation to an injury or illness is to give the employee a set period of time off to recover 
  • Set him or her up with a doctor to examine their condition every week or so, assuming the office has a healthcare plan of some sort. 
  • If it does not, merely encourage the employee to be examined every week until the doctor determines that they are fit to return to work. 
  • In the employee's absence it might be necessary to hire a temporary replacement, or assign the work to another employee. 
  • Implement and promote progams that stress safety and safe behaviors in the workplace.

Rectifying tardiness

  • Positive reinforcement: Offer an employee incentive program for arriving on time. 
  • An employee who is only late three times per year may receive a $1,000 bonus. 
  • This would encourage a timely arrival of employees and would help to lessen some chronic tardiness. 
  • Negative reinforcement: Place the employee on a form of probation. 
  • After repetitive tardiness, management must explain that this cannot continue lest the employment be terminated, regardless of performance in other areas of the company.

If no improvement is shown after these strategies have been implemented, it may still be necessary to consider terminating the employee in question. This should only be used as a last resort, but sometimes there is simply no other alternative. 

Other Solutions

There are other solutions to excessive absenteeism that are not employee-dependent. That is to say, they are much less personal, and are essentially a guideline for dealing with absentee cases of any type. Creating a program of employee motivation whether through incentive or other means has proven to be an effective approach.  While it may seem foolhardy to create such a blanket program for dealing with absenteeism, it is also necessary to consider that each case is different, and oftentimes a premade, proven effective method might be best. 

Step one

Creating records of the absenteeism, such as the types of absenteeism, their duration, and reasons for it (Biron and Bamberger, 2012). 

Step Two

Follow-through involving visiting the employee if they are sick or otherwise in poor health, conducting workplace interviews with the returning employee, and sending the employee letters for them to record their absenteeism. This ensures that there is proper communication between the employee and the company. 


An employee feels depressed and stops coming to work. The company would:

  1. Begin creating a written record of the absenteeism, the possible reasons for it, and its duration. 
  2. The company would then attempt to conduct interviews with the employee in order to assess the nature and severity of the issue (in this case, depression). 
  3. Finally, the company would, if possible, send someone to talk to the employee at wherever they are staying and, if the employee returns, continue to conduct interviews with him or her to ensure that they are fit to work again.


Absenteeism is a serious issue in the workplace, and it is important for companies to be proactive in seeking out symptoms of possible causes of absenteeism (especially depression) and stopping it before it has a chance to start. Even things like dissatisfaction with the workplace environment, one of the main causes of depression in the workplace, can at least partially be curbed by the correct application of employee counseling, workplace incentives, or a combination of the two. The important thing to remember is that employees are humans, and it is necessary to keep them happy, whatever the cost. 


Bender, A., & Farvolden, P. (2008). Depression and the workplace: a progress report. Current psychiatry reports, 10(1), 73-79.

Biron, M., & Bamberger, P. (2012). Aversive workplace conditions and absenteeism: Taking referent group norms and supervisor support into account. Journal of Applied Psychology, 97(4), 901.

Markussen, S., Røed, K., Røgeberg, O. J., & Gaure, S. (2011). The anatomy of absenteeism. Journal of health economics, 30(2), 277-292. 



Ultius, Inc. "Absenteeism in the Workplace." Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services. Ultius Blog, 28 Aug. 2014. https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/absenteeism-in-the-workplace.html

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Ultius, Inc. (2014, August 28). Absenteeism in the Workplace. Retrieved from Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services, https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/absenteeism-in-the-workplace.html

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Ultius, Inc. "Absenteeism in the Workplace." Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services. August 28, 2014 https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/absenteeism-in-the-workplace.html.

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Ultius, Inc. "Absenteeism in the Workplace." Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services. August 28, 2014 https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/absenteeism-in-the-workplace.html.

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