Top 10 – How to improve attendance at work

Top 10 Tips to Improve Attendance at Work

Absence from work isn’t just about poor health but linked to your company culture, domestic issues, a workers beliefs or general lethargy.

Here are my top tips to improve attendance at work

  1. Measure absence levels in each department and publish internally – there is nothing like a bit of peer pressure for improving performance
  2. Have a clear absence policy. In larger companies, its important to share the policy with all new starters.In small to medium-sized companies, the practice is more informal, but whichever way you choose, make sure of the rules of absence are consistent in their application to all workers.
    Workers watch and act on management actions and unfairness between workers or groups will be noted and may add to workplace culture problems and motivation to come to work.
  3. Talking to workers on their first day back at work after illness and before they start work is used successfully to cut absence in larger companies.  For more information watch the video on Return to Work Interviews Here:
  4. Consider the option of offering unpaid leave or buying more holiday time. Planned absence is always easier for a business to manage than unscheduled absence. Offer staff the opportunity to book unpaid leave for a set number of days or buy more holidays at the start of the year.
  5. Make controlling attendance a business priority. There’s no excuse for uncontrolled absence. Business tools are available to monitor and check absence levels and trends – you can even set the limits to alert you to unscheduled absence the moment it happens.
  6. Look at the standard level of absence in your industry sector – is yours higher or lower?  Absence is linked to your company culture and what others do when feeling unmotivated.  Do your staff pull the blankets over their head and stay at home or come into work hoping the feelings fade?
    How are you going to deal with that?  Training might be the answer….
  7. Give managers and supervisors training on how to deal with absence, whether they believe the reason for absence or not.Consistency is key.One company with a high level of absence where I worked were so sympathetic to workers phoning in sick that it seemed obligatory to have a few extra days off too.  The supervisors believed that they were unable to make negative comments about health issues. so tended to overcompensate by being too kind.  Everyone from supervisor down was told to leave out the negative comments, believing workers were entitled to stay home, even going as far as suggesting they remain off work until they were fully fit to return, which is a dangerous comment to make.  Even GP’s nowadays acknowledge that many workers can do some work and do not need to be fully fit.On the face of it, the sympathy seems a good idea, promoting a caring organisation; but culturally it was disastrous for attendance levels.
    Remember that workers get paid to work; without them, their job will not get done, and this needs repeating.  If employees don’t work then things don’t get done, deadlines missed, poor quality issues and more pressure on those trying to cover for them.
  8. Talk to workers before going to see their GP for a fit note – about how they might stay at work with some minor adjustments e.g. remove the heavy manual handling from the work if they have a bad back on a temporary basis, allow home working to cut down on travel.  Ask the worker what they think will help them stay at work.Remember prolonged absence from work is not good for people – they become isolated and afraid to return.
  9. Do not make judgements on whether the absence is ‘genuine’ or not; treat all absences consistently and with compassion.
    If there are higher levels of absence than the business can cope with, have a discussion about the implications of the absence with the worker. Do not question the cause of the absence unless you have absolute proof that the employee has misled you.
  10. If you have the resources – invest in an occupational health company to advise you on how to improve attendance.
    You can also have health assessments of fitness for work before starting a job (pre-placement), after significant health issues and short-term repeated absences.

Further Reading

To find a list of nationally accredited occupational health companies to help improve attendance at work go to SEQOHS website.

For more advice on managing absence and attendance see the Bradford Factor which is a system of allocating points depending on absence levels

How to refer a worker to occupational health

Or just put ‘absence’ in the search box for this site for loads more information.


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