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Tips to Manage and Improve Attendance at Work


Attendance at work can have far-reaching effects. To minimize absenteeism and encourage work-life balance, it’s important to have an attendance policy that shows employees what is and what isn’t acceptable regarding time off. If you’re developing an attendance policy for your business, the tips in this guide can help you make it more effective.

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How does attendance affect the workplace?

Attendance is extremely important in the workplace. When employees are present and arrive to work on time, it helps keep everything operating smoothly. Here are some potential effects of poor attendance:

  • Other employees have to pick up the slack, which can decrease employee morale.
  • Morale can also drop and teamwork can suffer if employees with good attendance start resenting those who are frequently absent.
  • You might have to pay for a substitute employee, or other employees might have to work overtime, which increases their pay rate and costs you more money.
  • Lower productivity can slow projects down, resulting in missed deadlines.
  • Work processes and customer interactions are inconsistent when different people handle them. This can increase mistakes and hurt the customer experience.

Ensure your workplace has an attendance policy in place that’s fair for all staff and clearly outlines the definitions and procedures for tracking and documenting attendance.

Tracking attendance at work

Having a reliable tracking system helps you monitor the attendance of employees. Some systems are easier than others due to automation. Consider these tracking options:

Manual tracking

If you run a small company, you might track attendance manually. One person handles attendance and marks people as absent when they’re not there. This is the most basic option, but it can be time-consuming. It’s also easy for employees to show up late or leave early if no one is monitoring them.


Another traditional option is having employees fill out timesheets, either physical or online. Employees can track time under different projects if you want a breakdown of how they use their time. This option is time-consuming for employees and the payroll department, and it’s easy for employees to lie about their time.


Instead of traditional punch cards with a timeclock, many businesses use a keycard system. Employees simply scan their cards to clock in or out. It’s quick and easy for employees, and the system tracks time automatically for you. However, it’s easy for an employee to give another employee their keycard, so they can clock them in and make it appear as if they were at work when they weren’t.

Time-tracking software

Sophisticated software can track your employees and monitor how they’re using their time. Many programs have various features you can use, such as GPS monitoring to see where employees clock in and monitoring the websites and apps they use on their work computer.

These programs can simplify payroll because they automate much of the process. If employees work on different projects that are billed or tracked differently, the software makes it easier to differentiate.


This attendance tracking system requires a fingerprint, facial recognition, iris scan or similar data to clock in and out. Biometric data readers eliminate the possibility of buddy punching, where someone else clocks an employee in to make it look like they were on time. It’s also a quick way for employees to clock in and out.

Common work attendance issues

When you think of employee attendance problems, you might only look at missed days. However, other performance issues can also fall under attendance at work. Here are some examples of work attendance problems:

  • Showing up late
  • Leaving early
  • Last-minute absences
  • No call, no show
  • Excessive breaks
  • Repeated illnesses

All of these issues affect workflow and decrease productivity, which ultimately costs your company money.

Ways to improve employee attendance

Improving employee attendance can increase productivity and morale. Even if you don’t have a major employee absenteeism problem, working to improve attendance is always a good idea. Here are some tips that can help:

Create an attendance policy

Having a written attendance policy outlines attendance expectations. It eliminates any confusion on the type of leave available, consequences for not having good attendance and how to request time off. If you already have an attendance policy, review it to ensure it’s still accurate.

Offer flexibility

Attendance issues aren’t just related to missing an entire day of work. Being late or taking long lunches can also fall under attendance issues. If employers are flexible with the hours employees work, it can help improve employee attendance.

For example, an employee who is consistently late because they need to drop their kids off at school before going to work might appreciate being able to switch their schedule to start 30 minutes later. That extra time allows them to drop off their kids and get to work on time.

Talk about attendance

Let employees know why it’s important to have good attendance. If employees miss a lot of work or frequently show up late, sit down with them one-on-one to find out what’s causing the issues. Work with individual employees to correct work attendance issues.

Correct the root problem

Poor attendance at work can be caused by underlying issues, especially if it’s a widespread problem. The company culture or employee morale could be low, and your employees might be feeling unmotivated. Rewarding or punishing employees for attendance might not help much if there’s a deeper problem. Fixing the underlying issue might naturally correct attendance problems.

Reward good attendance

Rewarding employees who consistently have good attendance can motivate them to keep up their records. It might also encourage other people to show up more consistently. For example, you might consider giving employees extra time off if they go a full quarter with no absences.

One potential drawback to this strategy is that people might show up for work when they’re sick to keep their attendance records. It might also discourage employees from using planned vacation time, which is important for them to avoid burnout.

What is an attendance policy?

An attendance policy outlines specific rules, actions and outcomes for handling workplace absences. Businesses implement attendance policies to outline stipulations for sick leave, vacation time, personal time and unexcused tardiness and absences.

The purpose of an attendance policy is to ensure that employees know the procedures they need to follow to request time off and the standards for keeping track of attendance at work.

How to create an attendance policy

Create an attendance policy that outlines and defines how your business will address absenteeism and paid time off using the following steps:

1. Define your business’s attendance

Outline what constitutes scheduled and unscheduled absences. Make a clear distinction between emergency absences, planned vacation, personal days, tardiness and no-shows. You’ll use this foundation later to determine the scope of disciplinary action.

2. Determine how to track attendance

Attendance applications, such as payroll timekeeping systems and digital time cards, use a time clock format and are effective for tracking employees’ work hours, overtime hours and attendance. Communicate your tracking method to staff and managers to ensure everyone understands how to use it.

3. Create a policy for time-off requests

Determine the process you want your staff to follow when requesting days off, along with how you plan to document it. For example, you could create a form for employees to fill out to formally request time off. Ensure the procedures you integrate are consistent and equal for all employees.

4. Outline disciplinary actions

Outline the severity of disciplinary action based on the severity of absenteeism. For example, if an employee who’s never late and never misses work is suddenly absent with no apparent cause, the disciplinary action might be a verbal warning, rather than a written warning. Essentially, the procedures for disciplinary action need to reflect the nature of the absence.

5. Communicate with your staff

Ensure everyone is aware of the procedures and standards outlined in the attendance policy, and provide employees with copies of the policy. Have employees sign off on their agreement with the policy, and include it in your employee handbook.

Related:How to Create a Time Off Policy

Example attendance policy

The following example illustrates how you can implement an attendance policy for your company:

Attendance policy for T and E Tech:

Absences:Employee absencesencompass any missed work shifts, whether scheduled or unscheduled.

  • Scheduled absences: Scheduled absences include missed workdays that employees schedule at least a week in advance with a manager’s or team lead’s approval.
  • Unscheduled absences: Unscheduled absences include all missed workdays that employees fail to schedule up to 24 hours in advance with management, including medical and nonmedical emergencies.

Tardiness: An employee is tardy if they arrive to work at least 10 minutes after the scheduled workday starts. Three tardies will require disciplinary action.

No-show: No-show absences include absences with late notifications up to 30 minutes after the start of a shift. Employees are subject to a first warning and then follow-up disciplinary action after two unscheduled absences.

No-call, no-show: Employees who miss work without notifying a supervisor or team lead are considered no-call, no-shows, and they are subject to disciplinary action.

Sick leave: Employees receive a maximum of eight hours of accrued paid time off for illness, injury and medical emergencies per pay period. Employees may use accrued sick leave in cases of emergency and scheduled time off, and they must submit medical documentation for more than two days missed.

Extended leave of absence: Paid time off includes up to 15 missed workdays and becomes unpaid time off for every missed day thereafter.

  • Family leave: Family leave includes 90 days of paid maternity or paternity leave with documentation.

Vacation and personal time off: Employees receive a maximum of eight hours of accrued paid time off for personal and leisure time per pay period. To use these hours, employees must notify a manager or supervisor with a written request for documentation purposes.

FAQs about work attendance

The following frequently asked questions provide additional information about attendance at work:

How does an unlimited vacation policy work?

Unlimited vacation policies allow employees to take as much time off of work as they’d like, as long as business operations aren’t disrupted and they’re able to consistently perform their jobs. While this type of policy isn’t for every business, it can potentially improve employee morale, work-life balance, productivity and engagement.

What is an extended leave of absence?

Most businesses define 15 days or more as an extended leave of absence, and employees can request an extended leave for different reasons. Commonly, an extended leave of absence covers family and maternity leave, as well as lengthy absences due to medical procedures or extended vacations.

Can I request medical documentation for sick days?

Most companies request medical documentation if employees miss more than two or three consecutive workdays. If an employee uses their sick leave for two or more consecutive days off, it’s acceptable to request a doctor’s note. If you decide to require medical documentation for multiple missed days, consider outlining this in your company attendance policy.

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