What is



Absenteeism refers to regular absences at work, especially when an employee does not have official authorization. Read the complete glossary definition.

The organization takes a hit when employees fail to show up to work. But why do employees fall into the habit of absenteeism in the workplace? How does it impact those around them? And what can organizations do to reduce the absenteeism rate?

Absenteeism is not uncommon. Many employees are absent due to justifiable reasons. Some have personal matters to care for, while others may need to take time off for medical reasons. When workers fall into a pattern of unauthorized absenteeism, organizations should be concerned.

In addition, it used to be easy to track whether workers showed up. However, remote work has made this process more difficult. It can be challenging for employers to know if employees regularly attend to their work duties. As such, chronic absenteeism can creep up on remote-first organizations and result in a drop in productivity.

So, it's crucial for organizations to understand the reasons behind absenteeism and what it means for their daily operations. They should also keep in mind the different tools and approaches they can use to reduce absenteeism in the workplace.

Types of Absenteeism

There may be different reasons driven workers to be absent from work on a given day. As such, there are several different types of absenteeism of which some are a greater cause for concern than others. 

  • Authorized Absenteeism: This refers to planned absences that management approves in advance, such as vacation time, personal leave, or medical appointments.
  • Unauthorized Absenteeism: Employees may sometimes not show up to work without prior approval or providing a valid reason. This is called unauthorized absenteeism. In this case, companies may find themselves scrambling to make up for the employee’s absence.
  • Chronic Absenteeism: Sometimes, employees may be habitually absent. Usually, chronic absenteeism presents as a pattern of frequent unplanned absences over an extended period. This can be a significant concern for organizations because it can disrupt workflows and affect team dynamics.

Reasons for Absenteeism

There are many reasons why employees may not come to work. Sometimes, these are entirely justifiable, and companies should have policies in place to support employees during those periods. In other instances, excessive absenteeism may require more targeted measures. 

  • Illness or Injury: Among the most common reasons for absenteeism are physical and mental health-related issues. Illnesses, chronic conditions, injuries, and mental health concerns can all lead to absences from work.
  • Personal Reasons: Employees may need to take time off for personal reasons such as a family emergency or to care for dependents. They may also be dealing with other personal challenges or conflicts.
  • Work-Related Factors: Burnout and stress may cause employees to simply not show up. Struggling to find a work-life balance may cause dissatisfaction, which can, in turn, lead to frequent absenteeism. A negative work environment and lack of motivation can also be contributing factors. 
  • Poor Attendance Culture: Sometimes, companies have a culture of absenteeism. When many employees fail to show up to work, and companies do nothing about it, absenteeism may prevail. Seeing a lack of “showing up” from leadership may also exacerbate the issue. 

Ways to Reduce Absenteeism

Authorized absenteeism is something companies are used to managing. Having a valid reason for an employee’s absence offers the company an opportunity to manage their projects and assign others to the task. However, unauthorized and chronic absenteeism can become a real issue. 

Here are some ways to address absenteeism and ensure your employees show up. 

1. Promote a Healthy Work Environment
Foster a positive and supportive work culture that encourages employee well-being. Promote work-life balance, provide resources for stress management, and offer employee assistance programs to address personal challenges.

2. Enhance Communication and Employee Engagement
Absenteeism can result from a lack of motivation. Make sure that you listen to your employees and create channels for them to communicate. This includes open and safe feedback mechanisms where you can address their concerns before they escalate. 

3. Provide Flexible Work Arrangements
Offering flexible work options such as remote work, flexible schedules, or compressed work weeks can accommodate personal needs. It can also help employees find a better work-life balance or work-life integration that suits their personal and professional goals. 

4. Implement Absence Management Policies
Establish clear policies and procedures regarding attendance. This should include guidelines on how employees can report absences, documentation requirements, and consequences for unauthorized absences. Make sure that you consistently and fairly operationalize these policies. 

5. Offer Employee Development and Support
Invest in employee development programs, training, and opportunities for growth. Provide support systems, including mentorship and coaching, to help employees navigate challenges and improve job satisfaction.

Manage a Global Team Easily with Borderless 

Managing absenteeism across a global team can be a challenge. At Borderless, we are experts in international employment. We help you understand the different work cultures across the globe and support you along the entire employee lifecycle in over 170 countries. 

Book a demo today to find out how we can help.