Employee Absenteeism | Underlying Causes of Workplace Absenteeism

By Prapoorna M

Last Updated: November 27, 2021

Absenteeism is the term used when the person is habitually or regularly being absent from the work. This absenteeism is different from the authorized leaves or permissions taken by the employees. Employee absenteeism during work hours, affects the productive time of the company.

The work that is readily waiting for the employee to attend to gets delayed due to the absence of the employee and if the employee doesn’t take responsibility, though being aware of this, it is truly a concern for the company. Though in some companies, absenteeism is due to the laziness or the over-lenience given to certain employees, it is not always true. There could be many probable causes while the most common observed ones are here under.

A Manager thinking near a window
A Manager thinking near a window

Reasons for Absenteeism

Before prejudicing on the reasons for your employee absenteeism, go through the list of probable reasons and then try to find out which one could be yours.

Sudden illness

A sudden injury or sickness that affected the employee could make them take a sudden leave and this absenteeism probably might not be a planned leave. Such reports are usually made when their work time is about to start or if it has already started. This is a common unplanned situation. Sometimes the illness could be of their closed ones at home or the ones dependent on them. When these illnesses take one or two days time then it could be manageable. But, if this happens to be a long leave, the work shifting might become a problem for the management.

Child or Elder Care

When the workers have issues with taking care of little children or the elder people at home, sudden absents are common. Children who need adult supervision or old people who needs medical attention or a helper all the while could be a strong reason for them to take sudden and unavoidable leaves. In such cases, many companies offer the option of working from home while other companies take a step forward and provide crèche and care services too.


Any kind of verbal or non-verbal harassments at the workplace are usually caused by superiors or co-workers. This could be another common reason for employee absenteeism whereas such things are seldom discussed. Talk to your employees every now and then to find out if there could be any such signs. Bullying in the shade of friendliness or discriminating on the basis of caste, creed, gender, official or financial status etc. should also be noticed by the management, to prevent employee absenteeism and to protect the workplace integrity.

Boss harassing a women employee
Boss harassing a women employee

Workplace Conflicts

If the workers had to face some conflict with the teammates or with their team lead or manager, they tend to avoid coming to office or find excuses to skip the day off. Such workplace conflicts not only affect the employee’s productive time but they also affect company’s productivity. These things indirectly affect workplace environment and the employees lose interest in continuing the job, resulting in low employee retention.
If the employees are denied the freedom of expression or having a free dialogue about their opinions at workplace that affects the whole working environment and the employees lose interest in the job. To avoid this, the HR managers or the concerned managers need to talk to each of the employee focusing on individual performance management. This gives a chance for them to notice any unwanted disputes to occur in the workplace.


If it happens that the manager who received complaints did not respond on taking actions, or if the manager him/herself is not interested in solving the issues or maybe responsible for creating the issues in the workplace, then the employees eventually lose interest in coming to the office. This affects their productivity and results in the increase of absenteeism in employees.

Such situations spring the feelings of unfair treatment and create disrespect towards the management that makes the employees disengaged. In this context, employee engagement is far to achieve. The management needs to work more on solving the internal problems of the organization and then on other welfare activities so as to increase the employee retention and employee satisfaction, that finally lead to employee engagement.


Some employees, who tend to be free and work on their own free will, tend to become rebellious when the rules are imposed on them. Such people purposefully come late to office or try to break the rules. Employee absenteeism is most commonly found among them. The HR manager or their concerned team leader can speak to them on their issues and fix the problem. This automatically brings change in them and they will be fine.

Time theft

Maintaining office timings should also be tracked down regularly. In case, problems persist with some employees, such issues need to be addressed. Coming late to the office, leaving early, spending much time in cafeteria or wasting the office time with chatting on unnecessary topics with colleagues could also ruin the productive time.

This should be taken seriously before it goes out of order. Any issues related to the personal problems of the employees should be viewed on humanitarian grounds. Not only the ones leaving the office early, but the ones staying in the office more than their allotted time should also be asked for explanation. The employees who cannot finish the allotted work in the given time tend to stay for more time in office. It means that he/she is wasting the productive office hours. Such a time kill can affect other’s performances too.

Employee Stressed-out
Employee Stressed-out

Stress and Burnout

Some employees get stressed at the slightest. Deadlines hunt them mentally and it becomes tough for them to meet the targets or follow the rules. On the other hand, workaholic employees tend to get more stressed and they reach their burnout stage during such peak times. Experiencing such problems make them skip the office whenever possible. Such people also might take extra time and do extra work buying extra pressure. Stress does no good. Especially when the work stress that involves their career growth is higher, it becomes a threat to their physical and mental health.

Employee absenteeism could be the outcome to avoid stress and relax themselves from such burnouts. Identify the symptoms in your employees and help them out before they reach the threshold. If you want to increase the employee engagement in your company and reduce employee absenteeism, increase employee retention and thus your productivity, our Employee Wellness Audit is here to help you. Wellness hub offers a holistic approach on your employee wellness that encourages employee engagement in your company. Log on to Wellness hub or call for a free demo, today.

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