Organizational Wellness

How to Calculate Your Employee Absenteeism Rate – And Why You Should Crunch the Numbers

Feb 27, 2023
Last Updated May 29, 2024

Do you remember, in grade school, how some students would strive for perfect attendance? Maybe you were one of them! If you made it through the whole school year without missing a single day of class, you usually received a certificate. 

Some students carried on their perfect attendance streak from year to year. A very lucky few even graduated high school without being absent a single time. But perfect attendance isn’t realistic — or healthy. 

In your workplace, people will take time off. They get sick, they go on vacation, they have to attend to family matters. There are all sorts of reasons why someone might need to take off from work, and your benefits policy likely provides them with the appropriate leave. 

Some employees will still miss days of work even outside of that. So it’s important for you to know just how many employees are absent, on average, so you can plan for coverage in your workforce.

Let’s go over how to calculate your absenteeism rate, and ways you can reduce it to keep productivity and morale high!


What is an Employee Absenteeism Rate?

Your employee absenteeism rate is the amount of time an employee takes off from work in a given period. It’s expressed as a percentage and it measures how often your workers are absent.

The benchmark absenteeism rate across all industries in 2023 was 3.1%., according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

How to Calculate Your Employee Absenteeism Rate

To get started, you’ll need to assemble a few key pieces of data: the number of absences and the total number of available work days or hours in the period. According to ISO 30414:2018, the employee absenteeism rate is calculated by dividing the number of unexcused absences by the total period and then multiplying by 100.

Here’s what the full absenteeism rate formula looks like:

  • Employee absence rate = number of absent days / number of total working days * 100

You can measure the absenteeism rate (also known as absence rate or absence percentage) for individual employees, for specific departments, or for your whole organization. Your absence rate will never be zero, but a low employee absence rate is an important indicator of team morale, productivity, and wellbeing.

Let’s look at an absenteeism rate example to show you how to calculate with real metrics. If a company has an employee who was absent five days in a month, and the total number of work days was 30, then their employee absenteeism rate would be (5/30) x 100 = 16.7%.

You can also use this formula to calculate absenteeism rates for individual employees or groups of employees, like a certain team within your organization. If you’re calculating the rate for multiple employees, you would just add up the total number of absent days and available working days among the group and plug them into the formula.

To streamline your calculations, you might calculate your absenteeism rates in Excel. With the formula functions, you can automatically adjust the numbers and calculate absence rates in one spreadsheet. You can then use the spreadsheet as the basis for your reporting.

Why Absenteeism Rates Matter for HR Leaders

For human resource leaders, managing employee absenteeism is an essential part of their job. Tracking absenteeism rates will help you prioritize organizational efficiency and job satisfaction.

Absenteeism rates matter from a people operations standpoint because:

  • They can lead to cost increases for your organization: High absenteeism rates often drive up costs for employers, lowering budgets for other important HR initiatives. If people are out of work, you’ll likely end up paying overtime to cover shifts or employee tasks.
  • They can lower employee morale: Even if just one person has a high absenteeism rate, it can create resentment among their coworkers — and lead to decreased job satisfaction in the long run.
  • They give insights into productivity and staffing: Without enough people on the job, the team may have trouble meeting deadlines or completing tasks. Absenteeism rates help with capacity planning.

With accurate information about employee absenteeism rates, HR leaders can be proactive in recruiting and booking staff to fill any gaps left by absent employees. And with insight into absenteeism, HR has data that may help them provide guidance on policies. Overall, what you know about absenteeism can make it easier for staff to balance day-to-day responsibilities without compromising attendance.

What Factors Impact Absenteeism Rates?

The reality is, a variety of factors can affect absenteeism rates. Improved job satisfaction and morale, better benefits, the organization’s culture, and the employee’s physical and mental wellbeing all play a role in decreasing both absenteeism and presenteeism.  

Some of the most common factors that lead to employee absenteeism include:

  • Illness or injury: Sick days are one of the biggest causes of employee absenteeism – illness or injury was responsible for more than a third of absences for all industries in 2023, according to the BLS.
  • Personal needs: People may need to take time off for personal reasons, like a doctor’s appointment or family event.
  • Poor or unsupportive working conditions: Low employee morale and unpleasant working conditions can lead to excessive absenteeism.
  • Lack of engagement: Employees who aren’t engaged or motivated are more likely to take unexpected time off.
  • Poor job satisfaction: People who don’t enjoy their jobs or don’t feel appreciated might also feel less motivated to come into work.
  • Long hours or burnout: Working too many hours without breaks or working too much can lead to frequent absences. One academic study, for example, found that burnout was a predictor of sick days among employees in the human services sector. And who can’t relate to that?
  • Childcare responsibilities: Employees may take time off to take care of their children or other family members.
  • Unreliable transportation: People may skip work if their mode of transportation isn’t available.
  • Adverse weather: Bad weather can lead to unplanned absences. This is especially true for major weather events like snow storms or hurricanes.

The Benefits of Understanding Your Company’s Absenteeism Rate

Understanding your company’s absenteeism rate is essential for HR leaders. This data gives you a clear advantage in your operations:

  • Improved resource allocation: By tracking employee absenteeism, you can plan employee workloads accordingly and make sure everyone is working at peak efficiency.
  • Better employee management: You can also use absentee data to help analyze employee morale, stress levels, and job satisfaction. Then you have the info you need to provide support for your workers and address any issues.
  • Reduced employee turnover: A low employee absenteeism rate is linked to higher employee retention. Analyzing this data may help you identify any areas where your workers are feeling undervalued or unsupported. According to Gallup, departments with engaged employees see an 81% difference in absence rates.

Proactive measuring and monitoring of employee absenteeism allows HR managers to adjust course when attendance slips. Some employees value flexibility as much as a 10% salary increase, so offering flexible work options, like hybrid schedules, may increase attendance and retention.

How to Reduce Your Employee Absenteeism Rate

After crunching the numbers, you might discover employees miss work more often than you thought! If that’s the case, don’t worry. Instead of getting anxious, here are a few ways you can lower absenteeism rates.

  1. Understand the Underlying Issues

From company policies to personal issues, the specifics for why people miss work change from person to person and company to company. Never assume you know what's causing your high absenteeism rate, and always make it a habit to investigate the causes. 

Employee surveys and exit interviews are both great avenues to gain insight into why employees are missing work days. Letting staff give feedback and suggestions anonymously is also a good idea. That way, everyone feels more comfortable, and you'll get the most accurate picture of why your employees are missing work.

Once you have identified a through line, meetings, memos, and company newsletters are good opportunities to communicate your commitment to understanding what's causing absenteeism. Remember to stay positive in your messaging and focus on finding solutions to avoid your communications coming off as a lecture.

  1. Create a Safe and Inclusive Work Environment

If someone feels uncomfortable being at work, they will find reasons to miss days. On the other hand, when a workplace is positive and welcoming, employees feel great coming in. Over time, they might even genuinely feel at home and start to see their colleagues as a valuable part of their community!

When the workplace is a safe space where everyone is valued, it won't be a place employees will need to get away from. Adapting policies aligning with a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging model is crucial to reducing how often employees are absent. 

  1. Prioritize Employee Health and Wellbeing

A recent global industry report revealed companies that leveraged the right wellbeing strategies for employees were nearly 11 times more likely to have a lower absenteeism rate. 

Whether it's letting them consult with a wellness coach or access mental wellbeing programs, keeping employees healthy and happy means they're less likely to need extra days off. Studies show that fitness and nutrition programs can also significantly reduce absenteeism.

  1. Offer Flexible Work Hours and Schedules

Instead of sticking to rigid work hours, emphasize the importance of efficiency and productivity. For example, if a high-performing employee prefers to work nights or weekends because they need regular time off during the week, give them the freedom to set their schedule to help reduce the number of days they might be absent from work. 

Providing flexibility also sends employees the message that you know their time is valuable. And since remote and hybrid work models are here to stay, embracing them is another way companies can reduce overall absenteeism.

  1. Provide Plenty of Paid Time Off

Finally, absenteeism is way less of a problem when you give employees lots of time off to have a healthy work-life balance. It's even a good idea to encourage them to take advantage of paid time off to recharge, socialize, travel, pursue hobbies, and be with family. 

Offering flexible time off is another way to help your staff maximize their time away from work. For example, if an employee isn't sick but still feels like they need a day to recharge mentally, they can take a personal paid day off without affecting the absenteeism rate.

Focus on Employee Wellbeing to Improve Absenteeism Rates

Once you understand the factors that can lead to employee absenteeism, you can better assess how well your organization is managing its human resources.

If employees are missing work, there may be wellness-related factors keeping them away — whether it’s their physical health, stress, or another area entirely. By improving employee wellbeing, you’ll boost attendance, productivity, and morale in your workplace. Employee benefits like employee assistance programs, flexible working hours, and employee recognition may help reduce employee absenteeism rates.

Talk to one of our Wellbeing Specialists today to learn about launching your own wellness program so you can help your employees bring their best selves to work!

Company healthcare costs drop by up to 35% with Wellhub! (* Based on proprietary research comparing healthcare costs of active Wellhub users to non-users.) Talk to a Wellbeing Specialist to see how we can help reduce your healthcare spending!

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Wellhub Editorial Team

The Wellhub Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.


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