How to Improve Employee Attendance and Engagement

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Do your employees take a lot of time off work?

Do they seem unmotivated, or disengaged?

These issues can be a major challenge for small businesses because one or two people often make up a large percentage of the workforce. If anyone is off sick or not completely committed to their work, the effect on productivity can be massive.

Missed deadlines. Poor service. And ultimately, unhappy customers.

We’re going to take a quick look at some easy ways to improve employee attendance and engagement, ultimately helping to improve profitability and customer satisfaction as a result.

Motivating your team

Did you know that worldwide, 63% of employees are disengaged from their work? This means they’re less likely to work hard toward goals for the business, and are more prone to taking time off work.

While it come down to personality, more often than not there are reasons for this lack of motivation: a toxic workplace culture, a bad boss or manager, or lack of recognition for hard work.

The first thing you should do to improve motivation is try and understand reasons for discontent.

A great way to start is to have exit interviews with outgoing staff in order to find out why they quit. After all, people move on for a reason.

It might not be a bad one, or perhaps one you can’t do much about, but if there is an issue they can help you identify, what have you got to lose? If you can change something, better to do it before more people leave.

There are also many steps you can take to improve motivation without having to wait for someone to leave. Most importantly, you need to ensure that the business is a great place to work, resulting in happier, more productive employees. Help employees find meaning in their workthey need to believe in what they’re doing, otherwise they won’t see the point of putting in extra effort.

Similarly, effective employees need to enjoy working and being in a room together five days a week. Work needs to be fun – make sure employees feel they can be themselves, leading to more creative ideas and better solutions to problems. Workers also need to enjoy working together, so encourage friendships by putting on regular social events like trips to the pub and team building days.

Finally, a major part in motivation is to recognize people for their hard work and help them see their progress. Employees want to know that their hard work mattered and resulted in a positive outcome. Showing that hard work is appreciated ensures that employees are more likely to enjoy the process.

Empower your team to stay healthy

Employee wellness programs have often been seen as a nice extra, however newer evidence suggests that they may reduce lost work days by 80%. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune either—your wellness plan could be as simple as paying for gym memberships for staff, or organizing after-work team sports.

It’s also a good idea to look at sanitization in the workplace. Millions of germs are picked up on the hands each day in the office, and the truth is, the office isn’t a clean place. In fact, the typical office desk is dirtier than a toilet seat! This is a common issue as desks are less likely to be cleaned while being used more and more for eating at as well as working.

Make sure your team has the tools they need to clean their desks regularly, stopping the spread of germs and unnecessary days off.

Another potential health issue to be aware of is Sick Building Syndrome (SBS), which describes a range of symptoms thought to be linked to spending large amounts of time in a certain building.

While the exact causes are unknown, the symptoms, which include headaches, nausea, and fatigue, are often linked to open plan offices with poor ventilation, low humidity, and changes in temperature through the day.

If there’s a trend in the types of illnesses that employees report, then it could be the actual building that is causing excess time off.

Constructively discourage unauthorized absences

Unauthorized absence is when employees take time off with no notice. This includes any kind of time off that has not been pre-approved by the management, which covers both genuine sick leave, and sick leave used for other reasons like attending a social event, sports game, or simply having too much to drink the night before they were due in!

Unauthorized absence is a particular problem for small businesses because it can result in a sudden lack of people available to complete projects or to serve staff on certain days, especially if more than one person is off sick on one day. Unlike larger organizations, small businesses don’t always have a workforce large enough to minimize the negative effect on productivity that unauthorized absence can have.

The truth is that employees do need time off work occasionally to help them experience a good work-life balance, for example to see the doctor, visit family, or care for their children. Excessive restriction on time off can actually encourage employees to take unauthorized time off rather than getting approval. For example, an employee may choose to take off a whole day without warning so they can go to the doctors or see sports match, causing disruption in the office.

Instead of trying to restrict time off, a better solution would be to ensure that employees can get time off when they need it, for example with a flexi-time scheme, allowing employees to complete their hours outside of the usual nine to five if required, provided they give notice of their intentions.

The result is a win-win scenario, as the employee can do what they need to do, while the business still gets that employee’s full time for the week.


Employee attendance and engagement with work is critical to the success of a small business, so it’s important to implement methods to increase both.

As you’ve seen, the reasons behind a lack of attendance and productivity are largely down to the workplace environment and culture—making the changes suggested here are not all overnight solutions, but are essential for building a productive workforce over the long term.

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Seb Atkinson
Seb Atkinson
Seb currently works in marketing, helping both start-ups and large corporations to grow their presence online.
Posted in Management

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