Chelmsford, Mass. -- New survey findings suggest that an estimated 1.4 million employed U.S. adults may call in sick to work the day after the Super Bowl. The "Working in America: Absent Workforce" survey of more than 1,300 employed adults was conducted by Harris Interactive and commissioned by Kronos Incorporated. Super Bowl-related absence rates may be even higher in parts of New England, the Mid-Atlantic region, and other areas where the contending teams have strong followings.
Super Bowl-related absences could be particularly striking for organizations with a high male population. A majority of the employed adults who may call in sick the day after the Super Bowl are males between the ages of 25-44 years. These are conservative estimates that account for the people already thinking about calling in sick and do not include the everyday absences that occur regularly.
Other large consumer events can also impact an employee's performance and attendance at work. The "Working in America: Absent Workforce" survey found that nine percent of employed adults have called in sick after staying up late to watch a televised sporting event, an awards show, or political event such as the presidential election.
Unscheduled absences wreak havoc on an organization
The "Working in America: Absent Workforce" survey found that 36 percent of employees who have called in sick in the past year say they have used sick time for reasons other than being ill. Unscheduled absences, including those that organizations will experience after the Super Bowl, could cost U.S. employers billions of dollars in lost productivity, impact production and customer service, and create employee satisfaction problems. Until recently, few organizations focused on controlling this hidden cost.
When survey respondents were asked what happens to their workload when they are absent from work, three key trends were identified. Approximately 61 percent of employed adults reported that their work does not get done. In many organizations, this can disrupt production and service quality.
Thirty-seven percent of respondents stated that another person in their company covers their shift. Often, employees resent working an additional shift because they feel overworked or uncomfortable covering an area outside of their core competency. This dynamic can negatively impact employee morale and productivity levels. Finally, 10 percent stated that their employer uses overtime to fill unscheduled absences, which can create cost overruns.
Unscheduled absences can hamstring an organization in numerous ways. "The direct cost of paying for work not performed is just one consideration," says Joshua Joseph, Research Director for BNA, Inc. "To actually get the work done, organizations may pay more for overtime and temporary help, incur schedule delays, and absorb other costs that affect the bottom line."
Fueling the issue, senior management in many organizations have not made controlling absence management a business priority. Managers and frontline supervisors historically have not had the tools or resources to control and monitor the problem. In fact, while 64 percent of employed adults reported having a disciplinary attendance policy at work, almost half said it was not enforced consistently. In addition, almost a quarter of employed adults were late more than eight times a year. And 11 percent are unsure if their supervisor would notice if they arrive late to work. As organizations continue to focus on reaping enhanced employee productivity, managing absences is a key workforce management issue.
Addressing the problem
Implementing an attendance policy that balances employee and company needs is the first step in addressing the problem. Organizations must monitor and enforce the policy consistently and fairly throughout the organization to curb unscheduled absences. The survey found that more than half of employed adults believe that their work performance is negatively impacted when attendance policies are not fairly enforced. The three most common responses when asked how work performance is impacted when attendance policies are not fairly enforced are: negatively impacts morale at work; makes employees less motivated to get anything accomplished; and employees only do what they have to do and nothing more at work.
"Organizations need to create programs that encourage a positive work/life balance,” says Keith Greene, Director at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). “When an organization dictates that sick time is only for an ill employee and does not cover other ill family members that could create an inflexible program that might result in employee abuse. To address this, some organizations are creating a Paid Time Off, or PTO, program. This program combines vacation and sick time into a leave bank, which provides employees with options and flexibility."
The Super Bowl is just one example of an event that sparks unscheduled absences. Every day there are situations that cause employees to use sick time. Organizations must adopt innovative solutions to adjust quickly to these situations so products and services are delivered on time. There are a variety of solutions to help organizations manage this problem. Often organizations adopt an easy multi-tiered approach comprised of attendance policy management, self-service tools, and scheduling solutions to balance the needs of employers and employees.
Harris Interactive conducted the online survey on behalf of Kronos Incorporated in the U.S. between December 20 and 23, 2004 among a nationwide cross section of 1,316 full-time employed U.S. adults aged 18 and over. Figures for age, sex, race, education, income, and region were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online. In theory, with probability samples of this size, one could say with 95 percent certainty that the results for the overall sample have a sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points. Sampling errors for the results of the following sub-samples: employed adults who have called in sick to work in the past year (792); employed adults who have a disciplinary attendance policy at work (733); and employed males aged 25-44 (300) are higher and vary. This online sample was not a probability sample.