Sickness absenteeism occurs when employees miss work for reasons stemming from health problems. The rate of sickness absenteeism is linked to the overall health of the workforce and also to specific factors in each individual profession. Workplace policies and national standards also impact the rate of sickness absenteeism as do cultural norms and personal attitudes among workers.
The overall health of a given workforce population plays a crucial role in determining the rate at which employees fall ill and require time off. Physical characteristics of a workforce contribute directly to this rate. A workforce that is overweight, sedentary and prone to smoking and drinking will, all else being equal, have a higher rate of absenteeism simply because these characteristics lead to a lower overall level of wellness. Some employers consciously take steps to promote healthy living practices among workers in order to reduce this rate, a practice that has the added benefit of lowering insurance rates across the employee pool.
Medical standards impact the rate at which employees absent themselves from work due to illness. In many nations, medical professionals are largely responsible for determining which illnesses are of sufficient severity to warrant absence from work. These standards evolve over time. For example, the rate of sickness absenteeism was higher in the United States in the years after the World War II than it had been in the decade before the war largely because standards and practices had changed within the medical community.
The characteristics of Individual workers have a pronounced impact on rates of sickness absenteeism. Employees who have a more negative view of their health, regardless of objective criteria, are apt to be sick more often. Older workers are likely to be sick for longer, a fact that may stem from the need for a longer period of convalescence. Workers in jobs that are more physically or emotionally demanding may have higher rates of absenteeism as a result of the specific physical and mental demands of those jobs and the injury and stress that result.
Absenteeism and job satisfaction are closely linked as well. Employees who are happy in their work and feel that they have adequate time and resources to do that work well are less apt to call in sick. Workers who are dissatisfied or overburdened are more likely to take sick leave. This may stem from psychological factors but may also be linked to the physiological impact of stress.
Close management oversight of sickness absenteeism tends to reduce rates. Employees respond to closer oversight by reducing the number of times that they call in sick without cause. Careful attention to the health of a workforce is also helpful in decreasing the overall rate of illness among workers.