Absenteeism occurs when an employee decides not to show up for work when he or she should normally be present and whether it is justified or not. This can have serious consequences on company operations. In fact, their work has to be assigned to their colleagues during their absence. Sooner or later, these repeated absences will generate additional problems that can become more difficult to manage.

Absenteeism is attributable to many different causes such as the work environment and management practices. It can even be due to someone’s own personal nature. If this problem is important in your company, an investigation must be carried out in order to identify its sources. In fact, any good absenteeism management strategy starts with the conduction of an organizational evaluation, which identifies the factors that have a real impact on your company’s absenteeism rate. This way, a unique action plan can be adapted to the specific needs of your business. Among other things, this evaluation needs to address corporate culture and work organization and how the company deals with stress and management strategies that apply to human and organizational issues. This will be used to get a more accurate picture of your organization by quantifying it statistically (frequency and duration of absences, work stoppages, illness or injury to employees, etc.) or in terms of costs (direct and indirect). Still, it’s more than statistics for it’s also important to collect information from interviews with key company individuals in order to determine the human and organizational characteristics of the areas affected by specific problems.

How to Intervene

The most effective intervention is to address the source of the problem. There are however some solutions to reduce absenteeism. Of course, these are simply suggestions and only you can ensure they are right for your workplace as some may not be applicable in certain contexts.

  1. Establish a policy

A clear policy on absenteeism has a strong influence over whether or not an employee will take an absence from work. In fact, it is used to clarify what is expected of each employee such as the importance of work attendance

  1. Assign employees to the right positions.

Employees with positions that match their skills, personal aspirations and abilities are less likely to be absent from work. In fact, employees who find themselves in a qualitative work overload situation (i.e. when they feel unable to perform their tasks because they lack the knowledge or skills needed) are more likely to develop mental illnesses and be absent from work. But the opposite is also true since the underutilization of skills and abilities also has negative consequences.

  1. Provide a healthy workplace

Value and motivate employees. For example, every now and then you can congratulate employees when it’s appropriate.

  1. Improve work conditions

To achieve this, you can modify your employee’s work schedules, give them more autonomy in the workplace or offer them compensation for unpaid sick days.

  1. Develop control measures

Ask chronic absentees to provide you with doctor’s notes, meet with them to discuss their unjustified absences and impose, if required, disciplinary sanctions that get more severe as the number of unjustified absences increases. Finally, adopt this golden rule: do not tolerate absenteeism in your organization.

Absenteeism and Stress

The absenteeism rate increases even as working conditions have become increasingly safe. Therefore, we can see an evolution in the causes of absenteeism. Today, the main factors leading to work absenteeism and medical expenses are stress, depression, anxiety and other psychological illnesses.

A person’s ability to manage physical, personal, social and organizational stress is of a very individual nature. However, some factors are related to the organization. The company’s culture, methods and procedures and management style are key tools that can be used to influence stress factors and improve employee performance.


Absences from work are very costly and increasingly linked to psychological illnesses such as stress, anxiety, depression, etc. It is therefore extremely important for companies to address this issue by carefully analyzing situations and establishing specific action plans.

It needs a lot of investigation and efforts to implement an effective action plan: there is no magic formula!



La gestion des ressources humaines, 2nd edition , Lakhar Sekiou, Les Éditions 4L inc, 2001

Source: Manager’s Briefing number 17.