People are a company’s greatest source of power, but they are also their greatest source of problems. Disengaged employees are costing businesses over $7 trillion, with more than half the professional population admitting to ‘pulling a sickie’ if they aren’t feeling motivated.

Unnecessary absences don’t just affect those who are taking time off; they have a huge impact on people left in the office. The stress and responsibility of taking on someone else’s workload can overwhelm employees, leading to them becoming equally disheartened and disengaged.

How do we break this vicious cycle and reduce the number of avoidable absences? In this blog post, we explore the relationship between employee engagement and attendance, and look at how boosting staff morale can cut down on avoidable sick days.

What does it mean to be disengaged?

Employee engagement is often viewed as an HR issue, but it should be taken seriously across the entire business. The more connected staff are to the company they work for, the higher value they feel in their role, and the more motivated they are to do a good job.

Unfortunately, not everyone enjoys coming to work – and this can significantly impact their sense of commitment, and their performance. If someone doesn’t care about their job, they will coast along with minimal effort, resulting in:

• Lower productivity, so other team members often have to ‘pick up the slack’
• Lack of motivation to come up with new ideas or better ways of working
• No sense of commitment to the company, team members, clients or quality of work
• Frequent staff turnover, as disengaged employees think the grass is greener elsewhere
• Regular staff absences when people simply lack the energy to come into work

Many companies recognise the dangers of disengagement in the workplace, but most underestimate its impact on staff attendance; nearly a quarter (24%) of employees who pull sickies say they don’t feel positive about going to work in the morning.

What effect does disengagement have on staff absence?

As we’ve just touched on, a disengaged employee will find any excuse to avoid going into work, and this places a massive financial burden for business owners. Sick leave costs companies £77 million per year in the UK alone, and the problem is exacerbated when staff make sure they take all their assigned sick days – whether they need them or not.

There is also a significant impact on the wider workforce. A third of workers get stressed covering for colleagues when they’re on holiday, so imagine how they feel taking on extra workload at the eleventh hour? Trying to meet targets with reduced staffing levels places an extra burden on hard-working, loyal employees, as they feel they are carrying less dedicated colleagues.

This disparate level of commitment can wear down even the most motivated staff, causing their stress levels to rise, and their engagement level to fall. Their health may suffer, or they begin to wonder ‘what’s the point?’; either way, their productivity starts to slow over time, and they take more time off too. It’s a vicious cycle.

How can companies increase engagement to combat absenteeism?

The facts are clear: companies with high staff engagement suffer 37% fewer cases of absenteeism than those with a less invested workforce, outperforming competitors by up to 202%.

Business owners need to understand where their companies fall on the engagement spectrum, and this is best achieved by understanding sick leave trends. Even small changes to company culture can make a big difference to attendance, including:

• Sharing objectives with the whole company – 65% of employees who feel disengaged say they’re not valued by their employer. Making sure that everyone is part of a shared vision will help staff to see the importance of their role, and to realise that they are contributing directly to the bigger picture.

• Celebrating individual and team achievements – if people are busting their gut for very little feedback, there’s no incentive to try. Paying attention to the contributions of each person and the team they are in boosts their pride in their job, making them more likely to turn up and give it their all.

• Improving communications – sometimes disengagement is simply due to a lack of clarity over what an employee is supposed to be doing. From the boardroom to the general office and everywhere in between, proper communication ensures that everyone is clear on their individual workload, and the wider business goals.

• Monitoring absence trends – often it’s the actions of the few that impact the attitudes of the many, so company bosses need to understand exactly who the culprits are when it comes to pulling sickies. Investing in an absence tracking tool helps employers to understand how often staff are unwell. From there they can identify whether regular absences are caused by genuine medical or personal issues, or if staff just can’t find the energy to come in, because they don’t care about their job.

Employee engagement is a mission for everyone

For companies to thrive in the current environment, employee engagement needs to be treated like more than an HR metric; it must become a mission for all business leaders.

If staff value and commitment levels begin to dip, at the very least, their productivity suffers. At worst, as our discussion has shown, it directly impacts attendance, and repeated absences start to drag down hard-working team members.

In order to break this cycle of disengagement, organisations need the right leave management software, like WhosOff in place to understand who is taking unnecessary time off. Better analysis of the trends at play will enable senior personnel to develop a strategy for improving employee engagement – and then measure its positive impact on attendance levels.

The ultimate goal is a company culture in which every team member feels like part of the business vision, their individual value is recognised and rewarded, and they look forward to a long and prosperous career, with minimal absences.


This blog post was contributed by Reg Groombridge, Director & Co-Founder of WhosOff.

Sign up for the latest insights