How to reduce staff absence in the workplace

Figures released by Price Waterhouse Coopers last week suggest that sickness absence is costing the UK economy around £29 billion a year. There are many reasons for absences as well as sickness, but many employers make the mistake of assuming that they are all unavoidable and/or come down to a bad attitude towards work on behalf of the employee, instead of getting to the root of the problem – if of course there is one.

Here are the two most common reasons for high levels of absenteeism at organisations, and a brief description of what leaders can do to try and eliminate them.


Employee engagement refers to employees’ relationship with their organisation, and is related to things like morale and general performance. The scale of employee engagement goes from the sort of worker who will go out of their way to do things for the organisation and is involved at many levels, right down to disengaged workers who do the minimum that is expected of them, and will leave the position as soon as they are able. There are many reasons for disengagement, but one way employers can find out why their own staff might be disengaged is through conducting surveys. After this they can create a strategy to try and increase this engagement and ultimately the performance of the organisation.

Disengagement can occur as a result of dissatisfaction with the job role, poor management or personal issues, amongst other things, however it’s important to remember that sometimes an employee’s dissatisfaction with a role is unavoidable, and will ultimately result in a parting of the ways.


Although not strictly a managerial issue, sickness makes up around 90% of workplace absence according to the PwC report, and there are ways to reduce this. Rules on hygiene – written into employee handbooks if necessary – is one way to reduce that kind of contagious illnesses that thrive in office environments, whilst a good health plan , a supportive attitude towards recurring illness and strict adherence to health and safety legislation are three extra measures that will benefit workers in more ‘dangerous’ workplace environments as well as offices.

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