Employee Engagement
24 min read

Engage employees to reduce absenteeism

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Culture Amp

The employee feedback platform

Employee absenteeism is a challenge for all businesses.

When staff don’t come to work, it impacts productivity and service delivery. If left unchecked, it can delay projects, undermine customer satisfaction and eat into the bottom line.

Natural absences and systematic symptoms

Of course, a certain amount of legitimate absence is to be expected. Illness, injury and unforeseen circumstances are a natural part of life. But certain incidences of employee absenteeism—especially repeated absences—may be a symptom of deeper issues. They could be an indication of workplace dissatisfaction or staff disengagement.  

Thankfully, recent research has revealed some remedies for these issues, as well as identifying the causes. At the top of the list of remedies: actively fostering a culture of engagement.

Culture at the crux

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s guide for HR directors advises that engaged employees are ‘less likely to be sick’. Their advice is borne out by hard evidence from Gallup research, who report that engaged employees take an average of 2.7 sick days per year, while disengaged ones take 6.2. [1]

Iconic British retailer Marks & Spencer did a similar study focused on their own workforce. In it, they found that absenteeism was 25% lower in stores with high levels of staff engagement. [2]

By now, you’re probably nodding, recognizing that these results make intuitive sense: a more engaged workforce should be happier about coming to work. However, you may be more surprised to learn that engagement also makes workplaces safer.

Gallup research shows that businesses with low employee engagement report 62% more accidents than those with high engagement. [3]

It’s about well-being

So much of this issue comes down to the wellbeing of staff. Employee wellbeing—physical and mental—is intimately intertwined with job satisfaction. It’s a significant factor influencing levels of staff absenteeism.

As it happens, engaging employees is a great way to promote wellbeing. Put simply, an engaging workplace provides better wellbeing for individual employees. Engaged employees feel valued and more positively connected to what they do. As mentioned in the landmark report by MacLeod and Clarke:

An 'engaged employee' is someone who sees their job as worthwhile or interesting and is therefore more likely to be fully involved in and enthusiastic about the things they do. [4]

Perhaps due to that sense of involvement and enthusiasm, employees who work for engaging organizations tend to have lower levels of stress and a better work life balance. [5]

A presentation from MacLeod and Clarke’s Engage for Success organization reported that engaged employees are more likely to show enthusiasm, cheerfulness, optimism, contentment, and calm. Conversely, they are less likely to feel miserable, worried, depressed or tense. 

Conclusion: More engagement means less absence

A culture of employee engagement nurtures happier and healthier workers.

Organizations that increase the wellbeing of their employees by way of engagement benefit from lower sickness absence—and an increase in organizational performance.  This is because happier, healthier workers are less likely to skip work, and they’re sharper when they’re there.

You can dig a little deeper into the issue with Culture Amp’s Impact of Engagement Whitepaper. Claim your free copy here.


[1] Harter, J.K., Schmidt, F. L., Kilham, E. A., Asplund, J.W., (2006), Gallup Q12 Meta-Analysis. Cited in MacLeod, 2009, p. 36.

[2] Court-Smith, J., The Evidence: Case Study Heroes and Engagement Data Daemons, Engage for Success, April 2016, p. 16.

[3] Harter, J.K. et al (2006), Gallup Q12 Meta-Analysis, cited in MacLeod, 2009, p. 11.

[4] MacLeod, D., and Clarke, N. Engaging for Success: Enhancing Performance Through Employee Engagement—A Report to Government. London: Department for Business Innovation and Skills. 2009. Crown copyright.

[5] Austin, J., interviewed by Macleod, D and Clarke, N., and cited in MacLeod, 2009, p. 59-60.


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