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I am ill at the officeCrikey. According to new research, when your staff call you to tell you they’re ill, most of the time they’re not. Here’s what you can do about it.

It’s just after 9.00am. In your payroll department, a phone rings. On the other end of the line is someone who sounds like they’re at death’s door. But a report by Timeware suggests that more often than not, they’re not sick at all.

According to the report, in 2014, only 45% of the people who called in sick actually were. Of the rest, reasons for absenteeism ranged from childcare issues to job interviews, relationship problems to hangovers. 4% of respondents took time off because of low office morale. 2% were overly honest in admitting they just couldn’t be bothered.

Yet despite the high rate of absenteeism, the vast majority of people (88%) said it didn’t bother them. As a business owner or manager, you might feel otherwise.

So how can you address absenteeism in your organisation, and ensure that when your employees call payroll to tell them they’re sick, they really are? Timeware’s Workforce Management Study has some helpful suggestions.

Measure absence

Perhaps one of the reasons for the laissez faire attitude to absenteeism is that, according to the report, around half of companies aren’t monitoring it. Given results elsewhere in the report, if that’s you, you might want to ask your payroll provider to introduce some level of absence measurement.

Establish patterns

Use the absence data to establish trends. Does the absence tend to peak on particular days of the week? School holidays? On days when individuals are scheduled for specific tasks? What can you learn from that information? If, for example, unagreed absence is higher during school holidays, would amending your leave approval practices, or providing some additional help with childcare, improve things?

Use your policies

As the report states: “Having clear attendance and absence policies to follow will help employees understand what standards are expected of them, as well as ensure that managers treat employees equally and will deal with these types of issues with a fair and consistent approach.”

Explore reasons for absenteeism at an individual level

Absenteeism occurs for many reasons. If dissatisfaction or low morale is the reason, what’s the cause? Does the nub of the problem lie with the individual? Or could/should the organisation be making reasonable adjustments to bring the employee back onside?

Create a positive working environment

You know what they say about prevention. Developing a genuine set of values and communicating those to your workforce can help establish an environment in which issues are aired and addressed before they become problems.