Your employees occasionally find themselves in a situation where they have to choose between absenteeism or becoming (re)employable. These choices contribute to your organisation's absenteeism rate. The figures don't lie: The figures don't lie: 65 to 70% of sick days fall within the category of 'avoidable absence'.

Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to reduce avoidable absenteeism. Understanding the interplay of factors is the first step:

1: Work-related factors

It's undeniable: avoidable absenteeism is primarily determined by how people experience their job and work relationship. Colleagues who have a relationship of trust with one another and their manager, for example, draw support from their relationships and will do everything in their power to remain employable.

In moments of crisis, they organise themselves to find the best solution for the whole team together. Conversely, if this mutual trust is lacking, the dialogue stops. Absenteeism can then be an escape route.

Within the working relationship, absenteeism factors are situated within one or more of these five key categories:

  1. Work organisation: what can be said about the division of tasks, monitoring and evaluation? Does the employee feel supported by the manager? Does the employee experience the organisation as stable and safe?
  2. Work content: is the work interesting, clear and tailored to the employee's skillset? Is the workload feasible? Who is responsible for what?
  3. Terms of employment: does the employee feel that he receives a salary in line with his duties? Are the conditions in line with the market and internally fair?
  4. Working conditions: is the working environment pleasant, healthy and designed with respect for the employees?
  5. Work relations: are employees involved in managing the team? Is the manager open to feedback? Is he or she very controlling or does the team work together towards targets?

2: individual factors

From health problems to a difficult family or financial situation, these are all issues that influence physical and mental well-being. And therefore also the behaviour of the employee within the working relationship. All these factors can therefore also trigger absenteeism. Sometimes, people even see no other option than 'calling in sick'.

There is a real chance that your employee will try to hide his or her private problems, for example out of shame. However, he or she may be sending out non-verbal signals that indicate that something is not right (e.g. a sad or tired impression, concentration problems, a distant or even cynical attitude).

3: environmental factors and society

In addition to the sick note - the symbol of the medicalisation of absenteeism - there are numerous other social and environmental factors that influence the working relationship. In concrete terms, it comes down to the employee’s environment and the social network - both professional and private – with the corresponding values, requirements and associated exemplary behaviour. Is a healthy lifestyle valued? What about career and work ethic?

These values, in turn, are reinforced by society's high expectations of professional success and a successful life in general. And in our 24/7 connected world, everyone is constantly confronted with this.

One thing is certain: those who often have the feeling that they are failing in terms of expectations and demands from their environment will feel less good about themselves and consequently experience less (professional) satisfaction. Perhaps he or she places the blame for that failure (partly) on the job.

The next step: opening dialogue about absenteeism

Reduced job satisfaction is a strong indicator of impending absenteeism, as is distant, cynical, lifeless or fearful behaviour. Are you recognising behavioural changes in a staff member or within a team? Then show genuine interest and offer a listening ear. Always make it clear to your employee that he or she can talk in complete confidence - nothing will be used against him or her.

Finally, and of equal importance to each individual conversation: learn from all the conversations and work with the feedback to further build upon the working relationship. If your employees feel that their comments are taken seriously, they will feel more appreciated. And that is one of the keys to greater engagement.