Companies Crack Down on Workers Playing Hooky

Worker absenteeism costs companies an estimated $74 billion a year, according to a story in the Nov. 12 issue of BusinessWeek. So it's no wonder some businesses are clamping down on employees taking time off, especially for less-than-legitimate reasons.

According to the article:

Some companies are instituting tough policies to combat hooky. Others are limiting the amount of time you can take off before unpaid leave kicks in. And then there are those using brawny human resources software that mines worker data and analyzes no-shows--from the hourly scut worker straight up to the middle ranks of the salaried class.

These strategies are sure to irk some employees, as the story mentions, who find that "the new crackdown smacks of Big Brother."

But some policies could prove useful.

Rooting Out Harmful Business Practices

One manufacturing company mentioned in the story had a group of employees who "loathed their manager's style." It went undetected until the company used Convergys software to examine absentee data and found higher absences in the disgruntled workers' department than other departments. "At that point, Convergys performed an "intervention" with the manager's employees: confidential focus groups where the workers could vent. Once the company attended to the problems, attendance rose," according to the article.

This shows keeping track of employee absences isn't entirely a bad thing. Some policies can be over-the-top and too intrusive. But it's a mistake to think companies shouldn't--or wouldn't, given the hefty price tag of absenteeism--stay abreast of employee absences.

As is often the case in the workplace and in life, it comes down to flexibility, trust and honesty. Employers should avoid draconian measures and trust employees--until they have a reason not to. Being inflexible when workers really are sick or have family emergencies is likely to draw the ire of competent workers and leave them feeling unappreciated.

Honesty: Still the Best Policy

On the flip side, workers should not abuse time off. That means not playing hooky or using such gimmicks as one recently reported: An Associated Press story highlights a company that sells excuse notes to students and employees for $25. The notes supposedly look as if they're actually from doctors or hospitals, according to the story:

"Millions of Americans work dead-end jobs, and sometimes they just need a day off," said John Liddell, co-founder of the Internet-based company Vision Matters, which sells the notes as part of its Excused Absence Network. "People are going to lie anyway. How many people go visit their doctors every day when they're not sick because they just need a note?"

If workers want their employers to trust them and offer fair policies on time off, they ought to steer clear of such absurd schemes. Dishonesty never pays.

Readers, how do you feel about your employers' absence policies?

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