Stress, Mental Health Issues Continue to Contribute to Employee Absenteeism

29 Apr, 2024 Chriss Swaney


Sarasota, FL ( -- Absenteeism in the workplace has increased in the past five years – and one in 10 employees are absent on days they’re scheduled to come to work. While planned PTO is standard when employees don’t show up, supervisors have to scramble to fill shifts, coworkers have to cover their team members and productivity can tank, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“To reduce high absenteeism in companies, employers need to start looking at how to make lifestyle changes for health and wellbeing for employees,’’ said Annie Lutostanski, who overseas coaching for the Green Life wellness and chronic condition management programs.  “There are always underlying issues for why an employee is missing work,’’ she said.  

Lutostanski said she sees all kinds of stress-related absenteeism and works to get employees into a better work-life balance, which includes access to a wellness app.  “We have programs that help a broad spectrum of companies and employees like Green Circle Life’s comprehensive communication and engagement platform SmartFHR ™,’’ she added.  SmartFHR enabled one automotive retailer, for example, to prioritize workforce well-being, increase employee satisfaction and retention and improve communication.

Wayne A. Hochwarter, the Melvin T. Stith Professor of Business Administration at Florida State University said most of the stress employees experience at work is caused by decisions made by management.  “Whether it’s politics, unfair decisions, poor allocation of work, a lack of trust, or minimal communication, management is culprit,’’ said Hochwarter.  “Still, self-awareness acuities rarely exist to realize this and make the necessary modifications,’’ he added.

The overall absenteeism rate for workers in management, professional and related occupations in 2022 was 3.6 percent, with 2.6 percent of the absences due to illness or injury, according to the U.S. Labor Department.  And according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), absenteeism costs businesses $225.8 billion annually in the United States, or $1,685 per employee. Whether COVID-related or not, absenteeism is becoming a problem for companies worldwide, with more missing work in pre-COVID times.

Hochwarter said that every employee has a different story. “Saying it is one or two things would be an oversimplification of reality,’’ said Hochwarter of Florida State University.  “The overreaching issues always center around trust and communication. If management is better with those, much of the stress will not occur, and there will be mechanisms in place to minimize potentially harmful effects if they are unavoidable like stress from a merger or required increases in productivity,’’ said  Hochwarter.

 As the dust settles from COVID-19, business leaders globally have been faced with a difficult decision – continue with remote work, get workers back to the office or opt for  hybrid solutions. For many companies like Amazon and Microsoft, ditching the work-from-home (WFH) experiment in favor of in-person collaboration could not have come sooner with 14 percent of Fortune 100 companies issuing return-to-office mandates. But companies are now facing increasing pushback from staff who want to remain at home working in their pajamas and slippers.

The remote work revolution continues to stoke the fires of absenteeism.  Just over one-third of workers in the U.S. who can work remotely do so all the time – while 41 percent arte at least part-time remote on a hybrid setup. More than one in five Americans will work remotely by 2025.

“It’s worse if remote work was available at one time and it is taken back,’’ said Hochwarter. “Obviously, COVID changed everything in life and work. It caused employees to look in the mirror and decide what kind of life they wanted to lead. Very rarely did work increase in importance other than a vehicle to pay bills and explore other non-work pursuits. In addition to worrying about the stress caused by not allowing work from home is the certainty that most people will leave if it has become that important to them,’’ according to Hochwarter.

 And according to a recent Gallup report, rising absenteeism in the workplace comes from a sense of disengagement and dissatisfaction in the workplace: over 60 percent of people reported being emotionally detached at work, including a half of all workers in the U.S.  The most commonly cited problems for these feelings and reasons for rising absenteeism  are burnout, unclear communication, lack of manager support, unfair treatment at work and lack of contribution acknowledgement.

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    About The Author

    • Chriss Swaney

      Chriss Swaney is a freelance reporter who has written for Antique Trader Magazine, Reuters, The New York Times, U.S. News & World Report, the Burlington Free Press, UPI, The Tribune-Review and the Daily Record.

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