How to reduce absenteeism in your workplace

Sickness and absenteeism is a major issue in the hospitality industry. Recent figures show that sickness absence costs UK businesses an estimated £29 billion each year with an average 6.3 days lost per year per employee. Although those figures aren’t broken down according to sector, you only need to do a cursory Google search of ‘˜absenteeism in the hotel industry’ to discover there’s a whole plethora of reports and research papers dedicated to this subject – and not just in the UK, but worldwide.

Look closer at those figures, and you’ll discover the leading causes for long-term absence include stress, mental health difficulties, injuries, back pain and acute medical conditions, with stress proving a significant concern where hotel and hospitality workers are involved. The six key hospitality stressors were identified by Professor John W. O’Neill of the School of Hospitality Management at Pennsylvania State University and his research associate Kelly Davis, who published their findings in the 2010 study ‘˜Work Stress and Well-Being in the Hotel Industry’ ( The stressors are:

  • Interpersonal tension (incl. arguments with customers, guests, other employees and family members, and with married employees reporting greater daily work stressors than non-married employees)
  • Gender difference (women experience greater occupational stress than men)
  • Work overloads
  • Turnover
  • Burnout
  • Overall job dissatisfaction

‘¦while other researchers have also added shift work, malfunctioning technology, unclear job responsibilities and poor communication between employees and management to that list.

It’s not a secret that employers who invest in their employees’ health and wellbeing often see massive improvements in workplace productivity and performance. Benefits include more satisfactory employee engagement, an increase in staff retention and a reduction in absenteeism. So, what can you do to make those positive changes in your hotel? Here are a few suggestions:

Reduce work-related stress: find out what stresses your employees are experiencing and take steps to alleviate them. In a hospitality environment, heavy workloads, uncomfortable work conditions, problematic shift patterns and tensions between guests and other employees can all create the kind of stress that leads to unplanned absence. So, listen to your employees’ concerns and, where possible, reduce those stressors before they get out of hand. Teaching them conflict resolution strategies and helping them develop time management skills can also be a tremendous help.

Be a supportive manager: it’s impossible to guess the personal stress other people may be under, and sometimes problems in your employees’ home lives can be a valid reason they’re absent from work. Try to create an environment where team members can feel comfortable talking to you, their line managers or your HR personnel about the problems they’re experiencing outside the workplace. It won’t only help to reduce unnecessary absenteeism; you’ll also be promoting a culture of trust and caring that will help to boost staff loyalty and retention.

Start an employee wellness programme: encouraging your employees to look after their health and well-being won’t only decrease absenteeism, it will increase morale and productivity and have a direct impact on your company’s future success. You could offer lifestyle assessment days to address your team members’ fitness concerns and educate them on healthier ways of living (as well as practical exercises for stress management), or maybe hold a monthly wellbeing health campaign or regular wellbeing workshops. You could even supplement these by offering healthier food options in the staff canteen and encouraging your employees to stay hydrated by placing water coolers or free water vending machines in all the staff areas.

Keep your employees motivated: feeling overlooked or stuck-in-a-rut is a big reason many employees feel dissatisfied and stressed at work. You can quickly overcome this by giving your employees regular updates about their performance (keep it as positive as possible!) as well as offering them the chance to improve their skills and promotion prospects with in-house training and a clear career development plan. Also, introduce social incentives like discounted gym membership and team-building activities outside of the workplace.

Of course, one of the most proactive ways you can reduce absenteeism is during the recruitment process – by identifying and employing people who are already motivated to join your team and give you their 100% commitment.

Helping you find the candidates who are perfect for your workplace is all part of the expertise we offer at Prime Agency Recruitment. To find out more call us on 020 7580 4398 or email