Combating Absenteeism and Tardiness in Your Eye Care Practice
By Practice Growth September 09, 2021
Punctual and regular attendance of eye care practice staff is essential to smooth operations. As patients may not be well served, or in a timely manner, when all scheduled employees are not present. Problems with scheduled attendance can jeopardize a practice’s reputation and profitability.
For the sake of clarity, absenteeism is the taking of unscheduled days of absence from work. This does not refer to excused absences that are requested and approved by a supervisor, such as vacation days. Absenteeism refers to unexcused absences, and habitual absenteeism is often grounds for reprimand or termination.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there was a 3.9% absenteeism rate among workers averaging 35 hours or more per week within the healthcare industry in 2020. While 2020 was an unprecedented year in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic, that rate is close to that of prior years. As optometry and ophthalmology fall within the healthcare sector, an eye care practice could expect any given employee to miss 4 out of every 100 scheduled work days without an excuse. That may not sound particularly devastating, but there are costs associated with those absences━ by way of paying overtime to call in additional staff or by losing a client. One study conducted by Circadian estimates that overtime costs a company approximately $3600 annually for each hourly worker and $2650 annually for each salaried worker.
In one metric that takes into account average overhead costs, benefits, and consumable materials, the cost of one hour missed of work is equivalent to multiplying an employee’s estimated hourly wage by 2.71. Using that calculation, an optician technician making $31,000 a year costs the practice $40.39 if he or she arrives an hour late on a Monday morning.
Tardiness, or arriving late for shifts or from breaks, also negatively impacts an eye care practice. While some tardiness may be unavoidable, such as having a flat tire on the way to work, habitual tardiness creates high costs for employers in terms of lost productivity and wages. In one metric that takes into account average overhead costs, benefits, and consumable materials, the cost of one hour missed of work is equivalent to multiplying an employee’s estimated hourly wage by 2.71. Using that calculation, an optician technician making $31,000 a year costs the practice $40.39 if he or she arrives an hour late on a Monday morning.
Clearly, habitual absenteeism and tardiness can be significant problems for an eye care practice. In addition to financial costs, it can impact overall employee morale or create tension between staff members. There are, however, ways absenteeism and tardiness can be managed, and it goes beyond the policies in your employee handbook that provide a framework for disciplinary action. Part of that management includes understanding the reasons behind nonattendance for your staff, inclusive of stress, disengagement, and childcare issues. The other part lies in creating a culture that promotes punctuality.
Managing Absenteeism and Tardiness in the Workplace
When habitual absenteeism or tardiness is identified, take time to sit down with the offending employee. Review your practice’s relevant policies (and consider revising them, if you realize they are insufficient) with the staff member. Most importantly, discover the reasons behind the issue, as there may be a legitimate reason, such as family illness or a mental health issue, like depression. If a valid reason exists and there are no other performance problems, you might consider revising the employee’s schedule or making other temporary adjustments to address the underlying causes of the absenteeism or tardiness. Any such discussions or amendments to scheduling should also be thoroughly documented in the employee’s file. Meticulously tracking missed work is essential.
While you may have identified a problem with one employee in regard to scheduled attendance, this may indicate a larger issue. Other employees may struggle with underlying factors like burnout or disengagement, and an all-staff meeting or staff surveys may help you take the pulse of the practice, so to speak. If merited, a variety of approaches may be helpful, such as:
· Flexible scheduling
· Job sharing
· Hiring part-time help to alleviate job stress
· Regular supervisor check-ins with staff
Such strategies can increase the emotional investment of staff in the practice, preventing issues like absenteeism and tardiness in the first place.
Despite an employer’s best efforts to foster employee engagement and troubleshoot issues as they arise, there is also a time to be firm. If problems with absenteeism and tardiness persist after making efforts to understand and troubleshoot root causes, it is grounds for dismissal. It might be time to update your absenteeism and tardiness policy if you noticed any deficiencies. You should consult with an employment lawyer to develop or fine-tune your policies.
Regrettably, some problems cannot be fixed, leaving disciplinary action or dismissal the only viable options for your eye care practice’s success.