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Amy Alvarez | 5/3/2022

The pandemic has caused many changes in private practice, affecting everything from the way we see our patients to what we expect from our employees. Although some of these changes serve us well, others may feel like a barrier. While attendance issues are not new to practice owners, dealing with them in this new post-pandemic world can feel impossible. We have adapted to state and federal mandates, faced illness that would put our patients and employees at risk, and now we are worried that calling out attendance issues may put pressure on our employees that could cause them to quit. 

So how do we address employee absences and other disruptions without rocking the boat?

The Importance of Addressing Attendance Issues

If regular attendance issues have become part of your practice culture, changing them will require some forethought and a strong communication plan. The silver lining here is that we see these behaviors crop up under good intentions of support and sympathy, so you haven’t done anything wrong. And they are simple to fix!

Through my own experience, I have learned a few things:

  • There are going to be times when your employee has an attendance issue that feels beyond your control. The desire to be “fair” will cause you to resist action. You are not an assessor. It is important to address all attendance issues, regardless of the reason. Being clear and consistent removes the pressure of doubt about the validity of absences.
  • As an employer, you have an obligation to your employees. When you do not address an attendance issue, you are prioritizing one of your employees over the others.
  • Unaddressed attendance issues give permission for missing shifts to the rest of your employees and will lead to turnover and employee engagement issues.
  • It is important to know what you consider excessive when it comes to employee absences, but know that if you put a number in your policy, it will become the benchmark your employees plan their absences against.

Steps to Effectively Handle Employee Attendance Issues

So, what is the simple fix? It can be broken down into four steps:

  1. Understand the problem and evaluate your expectations. When we have attendance issues, we can conflate the occurrence because of the effects it had. Take the time to determine your definition of excessive and compare that definition to the employee’s attendance record.
  2. Assess your current policy. Do you have a policy in place about attendance in your practice? Before talking to your employees, take the time to update your policy to ensure it will support your actions.
  3. Create a communication plan. You can address attendance concerns by sharing them with your employees in a staff meeting, having your team sign off on the new policy, and/or holding individual meetings with staff members. Take the time to plan out how you would like to communicate your policies to your staff.
  4. Hold your team accountable. Talk to your employees about their attendance issues, and share how it affects the team, their ability to perform their roles, and your patients. Document the conversations that you have and return to those conversations as needed to ensure compliance.

Although the response here is simple, that doesn’t mean that it will be easy. Make the time, get ready to be uncomfortable if you are conflict averse, and understand that you will have to conduct ongoing conversations about attendance to promote change. But over time, you will see alignment and growth in your team.

If you find yourself struggling with the day-to-day challenges of team management, including issues like employee attendance, our team of HR experts is here to help. Reach out to IDOC HR Consulting and we will coach you through the process so you can set your employees—and your practice—up for success.

Amy Alvarez
HR Consulting and Services Manager
Amy Alvarez, SHRM-CP is IDOC’s Human Resources Consultant. Amy has experience in HR in healthcare and retail, management in big box and specialty retail stores and physician recruitment. Through these roles and training, Amy is well-versed in recruitment and hiring strategies for “hard to fill” roles, dealing with low productivity, helping encourage employee engagement, on-boarding, training, day-to-day management in a retail setting, employee relations, and so much more.
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