Understanding and mitigating absenteeism in the modern workplace


Jun 17, 2024


Absenteeism is far from being just an occasional day off. It’s a financial burden, costing businesses an average of £568 per employee annually. This figure is likely to have increased as absence days have risen from 5.8 per employee per year in 2019 to 7.8 in 2023, impacting the bottom line and organisational success.

Absenteeism isn’t a one-size-fits-all issue; several significant factors come into play, including age, gender, and post-COVID influences. Understanding the complexities of health and productivity in the modern workplace will allow us to mitigate the risk of absenteeism. Let’s take a look at these factors in a little more detail.

Gender dynamics
Gender dynamics play a crucial role in absenteeism, with women and men often perceiving health challenges differently. For instance, 35% of females want help and support with weight issues compared to 26% of men. But this doesn’t mean that completely different interventions are needed for men and women. Recognising the differences in ‘why’ men and women want differing support is key to addressing their unique needs.

Ageing workforce
As employees age, health concerns evolve, impacting productivity. Declining testosterone levels in men can lead to low mood, poor concentration, and short-term memory issues, affecting their ability to perform optimally in the workplace. Additionally, 29% of females want menopause support from their employers, with 18-24-year-olds being the most interested age group, perhaps because they want to understand from an earlier age what the impacts are and how they can prepare for this.

Empowering female health
Supporting women’s health needs isn’t just a perk; it’s a retention strategy. Benefits like sleep and nutritional support, as well as menopause support, can influence the decision to stay, with 43.91% more likely to remain in such supportive environments.

Wellness among the young
Younger employees prioritise proactive mental health management, with 63% of 18-24-year-olds focusing on wellness to improve mood and overall mental health. Ignoring their mental health needs can not only be detrimental to their future overall health, but also have ongoing implications for the businesses they work for.

Post-COVID workplace dynamics
The COVID-19 pandemic reshaped workplace dynamics. With many more people working from home, businesses are facing employee health concerns such as musculoskeletal (MSK) complaints due to poor homeworking setups. Additionally, employee mental health may be suffering as a lack of interaction with colleagues leads to isolation and anxiety. Adapting to this new reality requires resilience and innovation.

These challenges all require attention in the modern workplace. So, how do we address these problems?

A modern approach to healthcare
The modern workplace requires a modern approach to healthcare. We know that taking an integrated approach to employee health and wellbeing is needed to mitigate absenteeism:

  • Understanding the employee risk profile
  • Tailored health programmes
  • Ensuring assessment of health issues is not in isolation

One-size-fits-all approaches won’t suffice in tackling absenteeism. For example, 44% of women would be interested in nutrition compared to 31% of men, and 18-24-year-olds are more focused on support that helps them maintain a positive attitude (44%) compared to other age groups. Tailored health programmes that consider gender and age disparities offer effective solutions to reduce absenteeism and promote wellbeing.

The importance of nutrition
Despite its importance, less than 30% of employers offer nutritional support as part of an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). Recognising the impact of nutrition on overall health is crucial in crafting comprehensive wellness initiatives.

Cultivating a healthy workplace
In order to reduce absenteeism, organisations must focus on employee needs and avoid ‘wellbeing washing’ at all costs. By investing in an integrated, personalised approach to employee health and wellbeing, organisations can create environments where individuals thrive and businesses succeed.

The key takeaway
By investing in employee wellbeing, organisations can create thriving environments where individuals excel, and businesses succeed. Understanding and addressing the diverse health needs of employees is essential for cultivating a healthy, productive workplace.

By addressing these factors and implementing tailored health programmes, businesses can effectively reduce absenteeism and foster a culture of wellbeing and productivity.