How Flexible Attendance Policies Can Improve Your Workforce

Hearing a lot of water-cooler chatter about flexible attendance? Us too. Here’s the scoop.


In a world where time is money, it’s hard to imagine that companies can succeed without a no-nonsense attendance policy. While this type of policy sets expectations, establishes fairness among employees, and helps control costs, more and more employees are seeking out less confining work environments.

If you’ve considered adding flexibility to your attendance policy—and creating a less confining work environment—here are four points to consider.

Many factors impact the lives of working adults.

Life can be unpredictable, resulting in a broken-down car, sick child, or a doctor’s appointment that runs late. While it would be ideal if these things only happened on non-work days, your workforce may expect a little grace when they happen on work days. Being reprimanded for tardiness or for missing a day of work when the unpredictable happens may cause employees to be resentful towards your business. You may be seen as having a double standard if you punish them for being late, but don’t reward them for arriving early, covering another shift, or staying after-hours.

Your workforce wants your trust.

In a study involving 88 retail stores, researchers found in stores where employees felt trusted, they were more likely to rise to managers’ expectations and perform better in customer service and sales. The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) explains that in order to effectively communicate trust, managers need to find ways to show that they’re not micromanaging or watching their employees like a hawk.

If employees feel that you trust them, they will make up for missed work and even work harder. They may even try upskilling themselves, offer to take on bigger projects, and become happier. And happier employees are more productive and more likely to remain loyal to your business.

When employees don't feel their best, they don't produce their best. 

When under-the-weather employees go to work, they affect overall productivity. In fact, according to a recent Harvard study, over-exhausted, sick, and sleep-deprived workers who felt they had to come into the office cost American companies about $63.2 billion per year in lost productivity. By adopting attendance policies that allow employees to take sick days without penalty—and delaying work that’s not urgent—the entire office will feel a productivity boost. And, by allowing your workforce ample time to recover, it will keep your employees healthier. 

The next generations of workers will depend on flexibility.

It’s projected that within the next decade, Millennials and Generation Zers will make up 58% of the workforce. Millennials and Gen Zers crave flexibility and, as a result, are reshaping the workforce. Long gone are typical 9:00-5:00 work days, business professional attire only, and closed-off cubicles. In fact, according to a recent Gallup Poll, about 37% of workers say that flexible scheduling and work-from-home opportunities play a major role in their decisions to take or leave job offers. These new generations don’t want to feel like they’re back in school where the amount of absent days trump the quality of their work.

By establishing a more flexible attendance policy for your workforce, you allow these workers to be in their preferred element. And when 77% of that new workforce believe that a flexible schedule would make them more productive, that means it’s time to evolve for the better.

Questions for You and Your Leadership to Ask

How do you start creating a more flexible work arrangement for your employees? With conversations first and decisions later. Here are some questions that will generate beneficial conversations.

  • How is your attendance policy affecting your relationship with your employees?
  • How is it affecting your productivity levels?
  • Are you allowing your employees ample time off for unexpected events?
  • Is it in line with what the workers of tomorrow are asking for?
  • In rare cases, how you will you handle employees who abuse time off?

Once you and your leaders have answered these questions—and whichever other questions arise—in great detail, it’s time to make decisions. Remember, you do not have to make a complete 180-degree turn; you can implement a new policy incrementally. Whatever you decide, make sure it is clearly communicated down your entire hierarchy, avoiding any ambiguity and reassuring your workforce.

For much more on understanding what today’s workforce values most, check out our “U.S. Workforce Report.”

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