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Your Job Is Encouraging Absenteeism (But Here’s How to Fix It)


Absenteeism is obviously a problem for businesses; productivity suffers when people don’t come to work and temporary fill-ins can be expensive. But having co-workers call in sick too often also has a detrimental effect on those of you who are left behind to shoulder the burden. Spot the warning signs that your workplace and your own job are suffering due to absenteeism, and deal with the root causes directly.

(Photo Credit: Soon./Flickr)

How does absenteeism become an issue? It’s a cycle. Often, a negative work environment causes workers to either get sick more often or take mental health days, which in turn makes work more stressful for the co-workers they leave behind — encouraging those workers to call in, and perpetuating the problem.

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Morale suffers for a variety of reasons. Bullying in the workplace is the first reason mentioned at Forbes in their discussion of the causes and costs of absenteeism. Toxic co-workers make other people not want to be there, and some simply don’t want to deal with the problem itself; they would rather find a different job. Even if you are not being bullied, a bully in the workplace who makes some people not want to be there will put a strain on your own ability to do your job.


Productivity suffers when people are habitually absent. Those who do show up to work get to pick up the slack and are overworked. One person cannot do the job of two, so while some employees are overworked, productivity is still down, causing additional stress from management.

This causes morale to go down, which sometimes creates ongoing depression. Depressed people are more likely to stay home from work, and are at risk for other health concerns, including substance abuse.

Find the Root Cause

If you find yourself in a workplace in which people tend to be absent, look for the underlying cause. If somebody has a sick family member, or a temporary illness, the rest of you may be able to weather the storm. After all, these things do happen to all of us.

Sometimes, however, somebody just doesn’t want to be there, for personal reasons. This individual may simply have a bad attitude. He may also be extremely stressed out about something outside of work.

Finally, it’s always possible that you have a dysfunctional culture on your hands. If this is the case, don’t think you are immune. A negative environment in the workplace is likely to eventually get you down, too.

What You Can Do

Know where your boundaries are. One problem with absenteeism is that those who do show up for work get burned out much more easily. Knowing whether you want overtime pay or need to go home, for example, may go a long way in keeping you healthy and happy.

  • Give people the benefit of the doubt. You never know when you might need people to cover for you for an extended period of time. 
  • Create a positive environment when you can. 
  • If you are a manager, leave the door open so people feel welcome to discuss things with you when they feel the need.
  • If you need to talk to your boss, be polite and diplomatic. It is often best to have a private meeting if you are feeling overwhelmed by too much work while others are absent. 
  • Be positive — offer the things you can do first. Then, discuss what you are having trouble accomplishing.

Obviously, work goes more smoothly when everybody is there to do their job. Be aware if chronic absenteeism is affecting your own ability to do your work, and go from there.

Tell Us What You Think

Does your office have a problem with people being out sick? Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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