Picture the scene: it’s 9am and you—a manager—have just arrived at work. It’s one of your busiest days and you’re already mentally preparing yourself for the inevitable hectic period when the bulk of your orders, customers or patients come in when the phone rings. It’s a member of your team calling to inform you that they can’t make it in as they’re under the weather.

Of course, you’re sympathetic, but the panic also sets in: your remaining staff members are going to be put under additional pressure and you will be required to chip in more than usual, potentially neglecting other duties. This might also be accompanied with some degree of suspicion—could the person on the other end of the phone be faking an illness because they don’t feel like coming in?

Such suspicion isn’t entirely unwarranted. 40% of US workers and more than half of UK workers admit to having ‘pulled a sickie’ in the last 12 months.

But contrary to popular belief, this can’t simply be chalked up to laziness. Employee disengagement is a global crisis, affecting the majority of organisations and driving up absenteeism rates across the board. This is costing businesses billions in lost productivity every year.

If you want to minimise absenteeism in your workplace and plug the drain on your company finances, it’s essential that your employees feel a strong connection to the goals and objectives of your organisation. StaffConnect is an employee engagement specialist. Read on to find out exactly what the cost of disengagement-linked absenteeism is to your business.

What is employee disengagement?

Employee disengagement is a situation where a percentage of your staff feel little or no connection to their role within your organisation. They are typically apathetic towards company goals and objectives and consequently underperform. This results in low employee productivity, staff retention issues and higher levels of absenteeism, as people lack the motivation to produce their best work.

Unfortunately, employee disengagement is a global norm, with just 15% of the world’s workforce reporting feeling ‘engaged’. The remaining 85% are divided into workers that are ‘not engaged’ (67%) and ‘actively disengaged’ (18%)—the latter category describing people who are hostile towards their employer and may sabotage the organisation as a result.

How much is it costing?

The estimated annual cost of absenteeism to businesses worldwide is US$84 billion. This translates to an employer spending up to 16% of its annual salary bill covering staff absences. However, these figures obviously include both ‘legitimate’ and ‘non-legitimate’ sick leave.

Quantifying the cost of disengagement-linked absenteeism isn’t easy—after all, how do you separate a legitimate illness from an exaggeration or invention? Instead, we can look at the difference in absenteeism in engaged workforces as opposed to disengaged ones.

According to Gallup, organisations that score highly for employee engagement report 37% lower rates of absenteeism compared to those in the bottom quartile. This translates to disengagement costing businesses as much as US$31 billion in productivity lost to absenteeism every year.

How disengagement drives up absenteeism

Analysis by the Centre of Economic and Business Research (CEBR) suggests that work-related stress, depression and anxiety is a leading cause of absenteeism and employers could be doing more to ease the pressure on their workforce. 46% of all working days lost to ill health are reportedly due to stress, depression and anxiety. When CEBR dug deeper into the causes of this phenomenon, they found that:

  • 44% of people cited their workload
  • 14% of people identified a lack of support as the primary factor
  • 13% said violence, threat or bullying was behind their illness
  • 8% struggled with changes at work

This suggests that overwhelm and a feeling of disconnect from your organisation could be contributing to the cost of absenteeism.

For instance, inefficiencies within your corporate communications can significantly increase stress. Deloitte recently found that employees lose up to an entire day of their working week to irrelevant messages and emails, aggravating time constraints and giving them less time to meet targets.

Similarly, Harris Interactive found that 24% of those who have faked illness don’t feel positive about going to work in the morning, while 45% think about working for another organisation all the time or very often. Clearly, there is a link between disengaged workers and high rates of absenteeism.

How can I minimise absenteeism?

Forced engagement doesn’t get results because it doesn’t stick. Bringing down the cost of absenteeism in your organisation is about creating a workplace that people look forward to being a part of and willingly commit to—not cracking down on sickness leave and encouraging further dishonesty.

  • Build company culture: Ask yourself a very challenging question: what is it about my workplace that is making my staff call in sick? You might be lacking in interaction between teams, or there may be a layer of resentment built up between customer-facing staff and senior management due to insufficient ‘top-down’ communication.
  • Facilitate open communication: Instead of avoiding their problems by calling in sick, employees should be given the opportunity to resolve their issues with their colleagues and bosses. Encourage feedback from staff and you might find that one person’s opinion fixes a roadblock experienced by the majority.
  • Include the entire workforce: 80% of the global workforce does not spend the majority of their day sitting at a desk. That’s 2.7 billion people. Of these, 80% don’t have access to email, despite the majority of organisations relying on email as their primary mode of communication. Switching to a mobile system will bring your entire workforce together and make deskless staff feel like part of the family.

Why StaffConnect

StaffConnect is a leading mobile employee engagement platform designed to authentically engage both deskless and in-office staff through feedback, pulse surveys, direct two-way messaging and much more.

We have helped countless clients across high-risk sectors such as hospitality, retail, manufacturing and healthcare transform the relationship between the organisation and its employees for a brighter, more cost-effective and profitable future. Discover some of our case studies to find out more about the transformative power of StaffConnect.

Sign up for the latest insights