The 7 common causes of absenteeism at work

A company’s working environment greatly affects worker motivation and results. However, there are other external influences that can significantly influence team productivity. The company has the responsibility to control these factors and to be ready to react to the unexpected.

Even a single day of absence can cause significant stress for co-workers, management and, of course, the absent employee. However, according to the latest statistics, more than a million people do not report to their posts every day in Spain.

Unusual absences are always a complex situation to manage. Sometimes employees may have more than legitimate reasons for not coming to work, or in some cases they may have somewhat unfounded reasons. The fault may also lie with the company and the working conditions or the lack of incentives. Likewise, we must remember the lack of reconciliation that exists in our society.

But… How do you know what the reason is and how to react? In this article we will explain the most common causes of absenteeism at work.

    What do we mean by absenteeism?

    Of course, all employees are regularly absent from work, this includes: vacation, maternity or paternity leave, illness or personal reasons. Absenteeism from work does not refer to these absences, but to those that are not marked in the calendar, whether justified or not.

    Absenteeism from work is defined as the absence, with or without a specific reason or notice, of an employee. Absenteeism from work this occurs when the worker does not come to his workplace or leaves without completing the schedule, and non-compliance with obligations can also be considered as absenteeism. Therefore, it can be understood as the absence of a worker from his place of work during working hours or the failure to fulfill his obligations.

    The following types of absenteeism are recognised, depending on whether the absence is justified or not:

    1. Justified absence

    In case of justified absence, the employee must give notice that he cannot go to his place of work or perform his job duties during your working hours, in cases where you are telecommuting or your work is remote. A concrete example of an event that could take place during working hours would be a move. According to the Estatuto de los Trabajadores in the Spanish context, “the employee is entitled to one free day paid for the move”. In this case, 14 days notice is recommended.

      2. Absenteeism in person

      This type of work absenteeism is also called presenteeism. In this case, the employee goes to his place of work, but does not perform the duties assigned to him. He is simply doing something else or wasting time on unproductive tasks.

      Therefore, presenteeism can be understood as showing up for work but not performing required tasks. This situation can be due to many different reasons and it is a mistake to think that it is the product of laziness or a conscious attitude. Also, frequent reasons for absenteeism can be considered: lack of motivation, stress, work overload and lack of organization or effective communication.

      3. Emotional absenteeism

      We speak of emotional absenteeism when the employee goes to work, is able to accomplish his tasks, but is not involved. Due to a non-physical cause, usually a lack of motivation, the employee does not perform well and achieves poor results.

      This type of absenteeism is the most difficult to detect, since the person is physically present at their place of work, but emotionally elsewhere. Normally, emotional absenteeism occurs when the worker does not identify with the corporate culture or, for some external reason, does not have sufficient motivation.

        4. Unjustified absence

        We speak of unjustified absenteeism when the worker does not go to his place of work or does not carry out the functions assigned to him within the framework of his working hours, without there being any justification or reason to explain such an absence.

        Absenteeism is a common cause of problems in companies for several reasons. First, taking more vacation than other employees can cause conflict within the team: it can lower morale and frustrate co-workers. It also leads to direct economic losses for the company due to reduced productivity.

        The most common causes of absenteeism at work

        If an employee is absent from work without notice, his duties must be assumed by the rest of his colleagues. This first affects the work environment and work dynamics, and ultimately decreases business productivity and has a negative impact on direct economic results.

        However, It is wrong to believe that absenteeism is always the fault of the employee and attributable to laziness. There are various company-motivated causes that often underlie work absences.

        1. Justified causes of employee absenteeism

        The main reasons for absenteeism are related to job dissatisfaction. this this happens in places where employees do not feel identified with the company culture or are not properly incentivized.

        In addition, there are also justified causes of absenteeism, such as illnesses; however, they must also be properly managed by the company so as not to cause more problems than necessary.

        Reasons for absenteeism include illness, family reasons or force majeure.

        1.1. medical reasons

        Many reasons refer to medical reasons why workers may be absent from work, including minor illnesses such as colds or asthma. Others may be more serious and chronic illnesses like cancer or diabetes. Also, recovery time after surgery is included as a medical reason.

        The reasons also include harassment and physical injury, which can occur inside and outside the workplace. Back pain is one of the most common causes of work absenteeism.

          1.2. Mental health and absenteeism at work

          Excessive stress or fatigue they can lead to a lack of motivation or difficulty performing required tasks. The underlying causes of these health issues can be work-related, due to overwork or poor working conditions. Or, alternatively, they can be personal.

          1.3. Reasons and family emergencies

          Family reasons for absence from work, such as maternity or paternity leave, require advance planning. Unplanned absences due to unforeseen events, such as the death of a family member, are more difficult to manage.

          However, the presence of good communication between colleagues can help prevent unplanned absences from suffering so much. For example, having frequent meetings where everyone shares their roles and responsibilities is a good strategy.

          1.3. Reasons of Force Majeure

          The reasons for force majeure are varied and not only include natural incidents such as strong storms, also a breakdown of public transport, traffic accidents are considered as causes of force majeure.

          2. Causes of company-motivated absenteeism

          Increasingly, companies prioritize as part of their business strategy to develop and establish incentives to attract and retain talent. They pay attention to criteria such as job satisfaction, growth and recognition. This change of orientation places the company as the first responsible for the performance of its employees, this also includes absenteeism.

          Employees who are unfamiliar with the culture of their business does not know how to grow and develop. This means that they do not reach their maximum potential and do not feel motivated, which can be the cause of absenteeism at work. In addition, the lack of knowledge of the corporate culture, poor working conditions, lack of growth monitoring and general poor organization… they can also cause a person to quit their job more often to work

          Mobbing is a big problem, not just in schools. Intimidated or harassed employees may feel too uncomfortable to come to work. Just as bullied children may not attend school, it is one of the reasons for absenteeism. Harassment is a sign that something more serious is going on and the company needs to get to the root of the problem.

          By encouraging employees to report harassment and establishing an open door policy, hidden issues in the workplace can be identified. In addition, it is recommended to participate in the work environment instead of being locked in an office. This way you can identify potential issues that other colleagues may be having.

          2.1. Lack of commitment

          Commitment is necessary to achieve a win-win outcome. Employees who don’t feel engaged in their work often present reasons for not showing up for work. The disconnection can be caused by several different issues; including lack of respect from management, unfair treatment, lack of feedback, or perceived lack of flexibility and freedom.

          Tools that recognize and empower employees can solve many engagement issues that arise from putting the wrong people in the wrong roles.

          2.2. Lack of sources of motivation

          Good employee morale and motivation are essential in any workplace. Any business where there is conflict is not a place where people want to work. Give employees the freedom to make decisions and show them respect and gratitude it is crucial to maintain a healthy working environment.

          By talking with employees about ideas on how to improve team motivation, new work norms can be discovered. This can lead to the implementation of new ideas, such as occasional days at work or even paid training.

          2.3. Lack of ability to promote reconciliation

          Unfortunately, as a society, we are far from facilitating reconciliation. Employees who care for children or the elderly may have difficulty getting to work. They may also find it difficult to communicate with human resources when they need to take time off to care for loved ones.

          It is essential to help these workers by establishing flexible working hours or by making it easier to work from home. Another effective measure consists in setting up a system which facilitates the communication of timetables to Human Resources and all other persons concerned.

          2.4. Lack of flexibility

          If employees lack flexibility, they may rebel against their schedules by taking longer breaks than allowed or arriving late on purpose. According to some research, setting up flexible hours can significantly reduce the number of absenteeism.


          Human capital is one of the main competitive advantages with which a company can count; however, it requires constant care. As we have seen, focusing on people, their motivations and their needs leads to a reduction in absenteeism.

          Absenteeism costs companies time and money. Identifying the reasons why workers are absent from their jobs can help create a healthier work environment and happier employees.

          Bibliographic references

          • Bhaskar, V. (2014) Employee Absenteeism. Sreenivasa Institute of Technology and Management Studies.
          • Kocakulah, M., Kelley, A., Mitchell, K. and Ruggieri, M. (2016) Problems and Costs of Absenteeism: Causes, Effects and Remedies. Research journal on international business and economics.
          • Peiró, JM, Rodríguez, I. and González, MG (2008) Absenteeism from work: antecedents, consequences and strategies for improvement. University of Valencia.

          Leave a Comment