How was your business performing this past July 5th?  Were you operating at peak efficiency? Fully staffed? Did a few (or more than a few) of your employees call in sick that day? You’re not alone. Absence management is especially important in holiday weeks.

It’s not surprising to anyone that employees may occasionally pad their days off with an occasional “sick” day. When we analyze our customers, we almost always see a familiar “smile” pattern of unapproved absences, peaking on Mondays and Fridays. This disrupts your business. Work doesn’t get done, or employees who do show up are struggling to pick up the slack. And if you call in an employee who was expecting the day off? That’s a morale killer.


Absences by Day of Week
A typical “smile” pattern of absences, by  day of week.

Our Methodology
The Kronos Data Science Practice performs analysis of employee time for hundreds of our customers to uncover the hidden value in their data. We’re constantly looking for new and interesting ways to tease insights out of our customers' data. We looked at which days of the year had the highest number of “sick days”, or unapproved absences. Was there commonality around the highest absence days of the year?

What We Found
Not surprisingly, absences tended to be higher in and around holidays.  We expected to see the same days with high absences across most or all the customers we examined.  That’s not what we saw.  We noticed the “holiday hangover” effect was more pronounced in manufacturing vs. other industries. While “holidays” were days of high absences, the specific days varied considerably. 

High absence days most often fell into two types of holidays. One is the “shoulder” effect of major holidays. This could be either July 3rd or July 5th depending on the year. In other companies, high absence is centered around Christmas and the surrounding days. Why the difference? With some manufacturers shutting down for a week at the end of the year, it’s easy to see why that week wouldn’t have high absences. Other companies might have “use it or lose it” vacation policies where there’s high vacation usage at that time too. In this case, end of the year isn’t a high time for absences and other holidays showed up higher in the list. Those doing a better job of absence management didn’t experience this holiday hangover effect. 

The second situation is “minor” holidays. These can be sports (like the day after the Super Bowl), regionally based or even religious holidays.  In one case, Good Friday came up as a top 10 absence day of the year, which surprised us, as we didn’t expect that to be a high absence day, yet for one company, it clearly was. 

Now that we know what to look for, there are some specific regional events which I hope to tease out in my next round of analysis. (1st day of the NCAA Tournament if your local team made the playoffs or an Olympic Event – If your hometown hero is in the event). But that’s a future blog post.

Once you move past the “standard” federal holidays which most people take off, there can be a wide range of opinions on which holidays are important to your employees. And the exact days which are important to employees may not be the “holidays” that you expect. 

Top Absence Days
One company with an extreme “Holiday Hangover” situation.

Employee sometimes use sick time to take off the days which are important to them, and not just the mandated holidays. This is not new. Essentially this is an employee-determined floating holiday. Visibility into your employees’ behavior is a key step in understanding what’s important to them.  But without good absence management practices in place, to go along with a good understanding of the value your employees place on certain key days, excessive employee absences will disrupt your schedules, reduce productivity, and lead to employee dissatisfaction among those who aren’t absent. 

Our research shows staying on top of employee’s priorities, along with understanding local concerns and events can really help. Not to mention ensuring you have employee-friendly practices such as a floating holiday policy or paid vacation time. 

To learn more about how Kronos can help you better manage your absences click here or here.

Published: Friday, July 12, 2019