Growing up with a mother who was also a teacher was pretty tough. Besides the fact that she would seek me out to give me a huge kiss and a hug in the middle of the hallway (what ninth grader wants this? So embarrassing!), I never was allowed to stay home from school. Unless I was deathly ill, my mom would tell me to "just try it" -- go into school and see how I felt.
Some of my classmates, especially in my honors classes, would talk about taking "mental health" days. When I mentioned how I wanted to take one, Mom gave me a look that basically said, Are you kidding me? Do you know who you're talking to?
I couldn't even stay home on Senior Skip Day -- when virtually every other senior wasn't in school that day. I swear, there were pretty much only two other students in all my classes that day.
My mother certainly drilled something into my head -- being physically present at school matters. And I took this with me even after I wasn't under her watchful eye anymore; I only skipped class once in college (and that was because I was pretty sick).
But there is something about just being "present" that counts. In my first few months of college, my boyfriend dumped me. I felt pretty awful and I considered skipping all my classes the next day. But I woke up in the morning and I decided to go to all of them. And you know what? I'm so glad I did. It took my mind off of it, and by the end of the day, I was feeling much better!
I've carried over Mom's views on attendance to work as well. I do stay home when I'm feeling pretty sick, but other than that, you can find me at my cube! When my mom's cancer took a turn for the worst, I certainly felt like staying home a lot of days, but I came into work anyway. It was definitely the best thing for me, and I knew people at work were counting on me.
I'm not just telling you all of this to show you what a big nerd and/or a rule follower I am -- believe me, I know that already. But when people start skipping out on work, it's a problem, especially in a healthcare setting where a patient's life could literally hang on your work. If there is even one less person in your lab on a certain day, what could happen?
Obviously, you should stay home if you're sick, and too few people actually do this and end up bringing their germs into work with them. But if your workers are staying home because they just don't want to be at work -- now you've got a disaster on your hands.
According to Career Builder's 2009 survey on absenteeism, one-third of all U.S. workers called out sick when they were actually well. Twenty-eight percent of those surveyed think their coworkers are really calling out sick because they are stressed or burnt out.
Other findings include: More than one-in-ten workers (12 percent) who played hooky admitted to calling in sick because of something work-related, such as to miss a meeting, give themselves some more time to work on a project or avoid the wrath of a boss, colleague or client. Others missed work because they needed to go to a doctor's appointment (31 percent), needed to relax (28 percent), catch up on sleep (16 percent), run personal errands (13 percent), catch up on housework (10 percent) or spend time with family and friends (10 percent). An additional 32 percent just didn't feel like going to work that day.
Sometimes, you are just going to have an employee who is going to call out for no reason, even if he belongs to a great work environment. And sometimes it has to do with something going on in an employee's personal life. But many times, when employees call out sick when they aren't, it's reflective of the work environment.
What can you do as a manager to cut down on absenteeism? Sure, you can enact a strict attendance policy, but you also need to make sure you have a healthy, positive workplace environment. Make sure you have a relationship with your employees where they feel comfortable coming to you with problems and suggestions. Encourage teamwork among your laboratorians, reward workers for doing a great job and make them feel like they are important and appreciated.
Lastly, be on the alert for excuses of this nature. These are real excuses employers received from employees and reporter to Career Builder.
- I got sunburned at a nude beach and can't wear clothes.
- I woke up in Canada.
- I got caught selling an alligator.
- My buddies locked me in the trunk of an abandoned car after a weekend of drinking.
- My mom said I was not allowed to go to work today.
- A bee flew in my mouth.
- I'm just not into it today.
- I accidentally hit a nun with my motorcycle.
- A random person threw poison ivy in my face and now I have a rash.
- I'm convinced my spouse is having an affair and I'm staying home to catch them.
- I was injured chasing a seagull.
- I have a headache from eating hot peppers.