Absenteeism or managing time?

In this day of flexible work practices, open plan offices and hot desking, many workers feel that the 9-5 demands are now an anachronism. Many feel that in addition to being physically present in the office for a set number of hours (as required by their employment contract), they are also required to be available outside those hours via email and phone.

Flexibility versus always available

The trend toward ‘be available anytime’ seems to make the requirement to be in the workplace a touch antiquated. This begs the questions as to why you may find your staff arrive and leave at different times of the day. Does this mean that they are not being productive, working less hours, disrupting team harmony or rejecting organisational values? Or does it mean they have worked late the evening before, intend to work through their lunch hour or worked all weekend?

Think of how many times you have written a report on the weekend, taken a call in the evening or commenced writing emails on the train. You also may want to think about mothers/fathers who drop their kids off at school and/or pick them up, cancelled trains and illness for other reasons that your people might be ‘late’.

What is absenteeism?

Some employers may choose to call arriving ‘late’ or leaving ‘early’ “absenteeism.” Absenteeism can also be taking long lunch or unscheduled breaks.

As a CEO or manager, how do you address such issues? Here are some ideas:

  1. Talk to your team about what the organisation deems acceptable for working hours and flexibility. Make sure this happens in their induction. This may be different based on the type of occupation. For instance, someone in sales may have more ‘flexibility’ than a call centre employee who is required to attend to calls in a shift arrangement.

  2. Give your people the opportunity to provide feedback if there are concerns as to their capacity to adhere to their terms and conditions of start and end times. You may find that some have legitimate reasons as to why they may not be able to get to work on time.

  3. Monitor and follow up with those who arrive ‘late’ or leave ‘early’ where there is genuine concern that their work is suffering or at risk of suffering as a result. Think about your organisation and whether you are prepared to allow flexible work practices. Is it acceptable to have some of your team working from home while others are required to be in the office?

Manage performance appropriately

How will you performance manage employees who are genuinely ‘absent’ without reason? You will need to record arrival and departure times and take notes of conversations with your employees about their reasons for such behaviour. Where there are clearly defined expectations of attendance and there are inconsistencies present, you as a manager need to take action.

In summary, ensure you do not assume a negative attitude is the reason behind an employee arriving late or leaving early or taking long breaks. Have constructive and informative conversations with your team member. It could be that they are just effectively managing their time!

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