Corporate Culture & Productivity

Why Tracking Employee Attendance is So Important in 2024

Mary Carnes
April 19th, 2024

The workplace landscape has been transformed in the past few years, with hybrid and remote work models gaining widespread adoption and prominence. As we move further into 2024 and the future of work continues to evolve, the need to track employee attendance has become increasingly crucial to maintain productivity, engagement, and accountability within organizations.

As schedules become more complex and dynamic and maintaining communication and collaboration channels becomes increasingly challenging, ensuring team members are where they are supposed to be is paramount for business success. To do this, one of the biggest issues business leaders must understand and address is absenteeism.

Dissecting employee presence data

Explore the importance of tracking employee presence, how it contributes to workplace analytics and workplace intelligence, the methods used to collect the data, and the best practices for implementing effective systems.

What is Absenteeism?

Absenteeism refers to the frequent or habitual pattern of an employee not showing up for scheduled work, missing meetings, or not completing assignments. It is a phenomenon that can have severe negative impacts on the workplace, including disruptions to workflows, decreased productivity, added burdens on colleagues, and ultimately, a detrimental effect on the organization’s bottom line.

Absenteeism can occur for a variety of reasons, ranging from legitimate personal circumstances to lack of motivation or engagement. Regardless of the cause, persistent employee absences can create a ripple effect that hinders an organization’s ability to operate efficiently and effectively.

Learning to mitigate absenteeism

Types of Absenteeism

There are three main types of absenteeism:

Approved Absences

These are absences that have been previously authorized by the employer, such as scheduled vacation time off, parental leave, sick days, medical appointments, or other permitted personal situations. While reasonable levels of approved absences are expected and acceptable, excessive or untimely occurrences can still impact workplace productivity.

Unexpected Absences

These are unplanned absences where the employee fails to show up for work without prior approval. Often these situations involve emergencies, last-minute illnesses, childcare complications, or unexpected personal obligations, which are generally acceptable reasons for unexpected absences. However, a pattern of frequent unexpected absences should be addressed.

Chronic Absences

When an employee establishes a trend of habitual unauthorized absences, it crosses into the territory of chronic absenteeism. This type of absenteeism is particularly detrimental to teams and workflows, as it creates an unreliable and unpredictable work environment.

Primary Causes of Absenteeism

While every situation is unique, there are several common drivers of high absenteeism rates in today’s workplace:

  • Low Employee Engagement. Disengaged and unmotivated employees are more likely to exhibit absenteeism behaviors. A lack of passion and commitment to their work can breed an unhealthy attendance culture.
  • Lack of Return-to-Office (RTO) Flexibility. As offices reopen, some employees may push back against stringent return-to-office mandates that don’t align with their desire for flexible scheduling and work-life balance, leading to increased absenteeism.
  • Employee Burnout. The blurring of lines between work and personal life over the past few years has led to unsustainable levels of burnout, exhaustion, and stress for many employees, triggering absenteeism as a coping mechanism.
  • Employee Mental Health. The toll of the recent pandemic, world events, economic pressures, and other stressors have weighed heavily on mental health. Absenteeism may stem from employees needing to prioritize their emotional well-being over work hours.

The Importance of Tracking Employee Attendance

Consistently tracking employee attendance data is crucial for several reasons:

  • Understanding Attendance Patterns. Tracking provides insights into which individuals, teams, or departments may be struggling with high absenteeism rates, helping to identify the root causes and address them effectively to ensure employee engagement.
  • Maintaining Employee Productivity Levels. Even a few unexpected absences can severely disrupt employee productivity. Tracking attendance allows managers to reallocate workloads and set proper expectations to mitigate the impact.
  • Fair Implementation of Policies. Having clear attendance data ensures that any attendance policies around vacation days, sick leave, or disciplinary actions are properly and consistently enforced across the organization.
  • Accurate Payroll and Reporting. Manually tracking attendance records is complex and prone to errors. Automated attendance software ensures that payroll processing, timesheets, and reporting are precise and compliant.
  • Legal Compliance. Certain legislation and labor laws around workforce management require detailed record keeping of employee hours and attendance records, making attendance tracking a necessity for compliance purposes.

How to Improve Employee Attendance

While tracking employee attendance is crucial, it is equally important to actively implement strategies and incentives to improve attendance rates within your organization. Here are some effective approaches:

Determine Why Absenteeism is Taking Place

Understanding the specific catalysts behind high absenteeism rates, whether it’s engagement issues, lack of flexibility, burnout, or mental health concerns, allows you to address the underlying roots of the problem more effectively.

Set a Clear Attendance Policy

Clearly defining expectations around attendance, absenteeism procedures, and potential ramifications during onboarding or training is essential. However, it’s crucial to provide the proper incentives and ensure that policies are fair and allow for personal and mental health needs to be accommodated.

Implement Flexible Hybrid Schedules

Embracing a hybrid work model that combines remote and in-office work arrangements can boost employee engagement while alleviating the stressors associated with strict return-to-office mandates. Providing schedule flexibility can go a long way in improving attendance and also signals to employees that you value their needs and are willing to compromise, which leads to reciprocation.

Meet Employee Workplace Needs

When possible, providing accommodating work conditions, resources, support systems, and balanced workloads can help employees thrive and reduce the likelihood of absenteeism due to burnout or dissatisfaction.

Implement Attendance Management Tools

Effectively tracking attendance starts with the right tools. By using suitable hardware to collect data and dynamic software to analyze it, you can get a complete picture of your office and how your team works.

Badge Swipes. Many organizations use badge or card access systems in office spaces to control entry and exit to their facilities. By requiring employees to swipe their badges when entering and leaving the premises, these systems can capture precise attendance data, including arrival and departure times. This method provides a straightforward way to track when employees are physically present on-site.

Occupancy Sensors. Occupancy sensors, often used for energy management or security purposes, can be repurposed for attendance tracking. These sensors detect motion or heat signatures to determine if a space is occupied or not. By strategically placing occupancy sensors in workspaces or common areas, organizations can gain insights into employee performance and activity levels throughout the day.

Wi-Fi Logins. In today’s connected workplaces, employees typically connect their devices to the corporate Wi-Fi network. By monitoring Wi-Fi login and logout activities, companies can infer when employees are present or absent from the office. This method is particularly useful for tracking attendance in hybrid or remote work environments, where physical presence may not be required every day.

Biometric Logins. Biometric authentication systems, such as fingerprint scanners, facial recognition, or iris scanners, can be used for attendance management purposes. By requiring employees to authenticate their identity using biometric data when entering or leaving the premises, organizations can accurately capture attendance data while enhancing security measures.

These different methods can be used individually or in combination, depending on an organization’s needs and preferences. For example, you might use badge swipes for physical access control and biometric logins for attendance tracking, while also leveraging occupancy sensors and Wi-Fi metrics to gain additional insights into workspace utilization and employee presence patterns.

It’s important to note that any attendance tracking system should be implemented in compliance with relevant privacy and data protection regulations, as well as with clear communication and transparency with employees.

By leveraging these various technologies, organizations can streamline attendance tracking processes, reduce manual effort, and gain valuable data-driven insights into workforce dynamics. This information can then be used to optimize workspace planning, identify potential productivity bottlenecks, and make informed decisions regarding attendance policies, scheduling, and resource allocation.

The Human Element

While attendance tracking provides important data and insights, it’s essential to remember that absenteeism is rooted in human factors and personal contexts. Not every workday absence amounts to time theft. An atmosphere of open communication and empathy is key to addressing attendance issues effectively.

It’s important to make it clear that while accountability matters, your organization genuinely cares about employee well-being and retention. Avoid implementing toxic policies that punish reasonable absences or discourage work-life balance. Instead, strive to create an understanding environment that values both productivity and the personal needs of employees.

The Future of Work

In the evolving landscape of hybrid schedules and flexible work, tracking employee attendance has become an increasingly vital aspect of workforce management. By combining data-driven attendance tracking with compassionate and flexible workplace policies, organizations can cultivate a culture of high attendance, strong employee satisfaction and engagement, and overall success.