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How to Overcome Unpredictable Attendance in the Workplace

Nov 4 2021

Over the past eighteen months, our approach to workplace attendance has evolved. As the culture continues to shift away from the typical 9 to 5 fully on-site work schedule and toward a hybrid workplace model, it will be up to business leaders and building managers to adapt the workplace to keep up with these industry trends.

Unpredictable attendance isn’t a direct byproduct of the pandemic. In truth, organizations have always had to navigate fluctuating employee attendance due to sick days, weather, and environmental changes. However, the recent global shift to hybrid workplace policies and flexible schedules for employees has sparked a rise in attendance variability. Without an entire workforce of fully on-site employees, workplace strategists need to consider how to manage changing attendance patterns. 

When left unmonitored, unpredictable attendance can result in unnecessarily high facility costs and lower employee satisfaction. The hybrid work revolution isn’t about trying to force new policies into outdated molds, but instead aims to reshape the workplace to better support the modern workforce. Therefore, overcoming unpredictable attendance in the workplace comes down to how well business leaders and building managers are able to understand how, when, and by whom their offices are being used.

Hybrid and Flexible Work and the Rise of Unpredictable Workplace Attendance

It comes as no surprise that employees' needs and expectations have changed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. After navigating the sudden transition to remote work, leagues of workers are reconsidering what they want their work life to look like. For many, this has led to an uptick in preferring hybrid policies and flexible schedules. For organizations crafting their return to office strategies, the increase in flexible schedules means accepting unpredictable workplace attendance as a new factor to navigate.

The key to overcoming unpredictable workplace attendance is clear communication between employee and employer. This can be strengthened through the implementation of technology like desk and room booking apps that allow employees to make informed decisions about when to come in, workplace analytics that provide transparent safety data, and utilization dashboards for quick snapshots. With 88% of employees saying that their organizations are taking the moment as an opportunity for long term transformational change in the workplace, it’s clear that the evolution in employee behavior needs to be reflected by employers investing in offices.

How to Manage Attendance in the Workplace

In recent years the image of the ideal office space has changed. In 2021, the ideal workplace is reflected by employee work patterns and trends. Ever since the pandemic and subsequent global transition to remote work ushered in a more flexible world for millions of workers, employees have experienced the benefits of agile offices. One of the primary benefits is a rise in the autonomy that these same individual employees have over their work lifestyles. 

As each employee continues to craft the hybrid schedule and routine that coincides the best with their responsibilities and personal preferences, their image of an ideal workplace is one that leverages smart technology and is flexible enough to empower their professional lifestyle. Employers intent on retaining top talent are tasked with transforming their office spaces and workplace policies to better support them, meanwhile building managers are crafting sustainable workplace transformation strategies that are as efficient as they are adaptable.

For business leaders, workplace strategists, and CRE managers, here are concrete steps that can be taken to ensure the workspace is continuously optimized despite a heightened state of attendance unpredictability:

Step One: Develop a strategy to capture attendance.

The best way to overcome fluctuating or unpredictable attendance is to take a proactive approach to collecting office data and monitoring workplace behavior. You’ll want to put systems in place that can tell you exact occupancy levels of your workspaces at any given time. Then, workplace strategy teams can analyze these findings and document notable behavior patterns, then act on them. This process acts as a way to predict potential risks to workplace productivity caused by major fluxes in workplace attendance— the more of an understanding you develop of your workplace attendance patterns, the less unpredictable they will feel. 

In order to gain a thorough understanding of how your workspace is used, you’ll need:

We surveyed over 40M square feet of corporate real estate globally to learn what the post-pandemic workplace will look like. Explore the State of the Hybrid Workplace Report and identify opportunities to improve your office spaces and employee experience.

Step Two: Analyze employee behavior patterns.

Using workplace analytics reporting, business leaders can begin to understand employee behavior patterns.

Building managers can analyze the occupancy data gathered over the course of the month on the lookout for opportunities for resource consolation. It’s important to keep external factors in mind during this process as well— such as holidays, seasons, social occurrences, regional intricacies, and even global events that could be impacting the attendance patterns of employees. For example, CRE leaders and workplace strategists who notice a drastic decline in attendance on the work days that bookend long holiday weekends can use this data to release unused rooms or make sure HVAC and other electricity isn't wasted in unused spaces (and even program utilities to shift from preset scheduling to manual scheduling based on Signs of LifeTM). . 

By analyzing employee behavior, company leaders are able to take a proactive approach to managing fluctuating attendance, as opposed to existing in a reactionary state each new week.

Another useful tool in analyzing employee behavior is through the use of employee surveys and office space surveys that can direct further workplace data collection efforts. Considering workplace transformations are made with the employee experience in mind, taking the needs and desires of on-site employees into consideration (no matter the frequency of which they work from the office) is not only a way to ensure that all workplace changes being made are in service of the employees, but it is also a surefire way to demonstrate to your workforce that you are taking their needs into consideration.

In order to utilize employee surveys to their full potential, ask specific and detailed questions about their experiences and expectations. To be thorough, segment surveys by department, role, or region. Questions to ask include:

  • What is your ideal schedule?
  • Which days of the week are you most likely to come into the office? Least likely?
  • What does your desired workspace look like? A shared team office? An individual desk?

Step Three: Conduct strategic facility and employee management changes.

Effectively overcoming unpredictable attendance is a joint effort between business leaders and building owners.

For business leaders, the emphasis here is on demystifying employee attendance in a hybrid model by creating clear expectations and dedicating a team or individual to improving workplace experience. Clear guidelines for hybrid work include:

  • Specific and flexible policies that allow for attendance transparency
  • Expectations for the frequency of on-site work
  • Expectations for hybrid teams
  • Remote work best practices
  • On-site work best practices
  • Available employee office technology

As a rule, the more intentional your employee engagement and workplace strategy is, the more employees will use the workplace effectively, improve collaboration, and stay with your organization long-term. When combined, the results of employee surveys, workplace analytics patterns, and workplace strategy should provide enough insights to eradicate unpredictable attendance.

For CRE managers, the final step in this process is when workplace transformations are implemented. Using occupancy patterns and real-time workplace insights dashboards, CRE and workplace experience teams can begin redesigning and restructuring facilities to better support the needs of their workers. The key here is to implement sustainable changes that have the ability to evolve alongside your employees. By creating environments that are as flexible as your employees are, offices can pivot when there are societal or environmental reasons why people are or are not occupying the space.

Top Causes of Absenteeism in the Workplace

As discussed, the best antidote to fluctuating absenteeism is a proactive approach. Therefore, it’s best practice familiarizing yourself with the top causes of unpredictable attendance in order to be on the lookout for when they may cause significant changes in your on-site attendance.

The top causes of unpredictable attendance are:

  • Seasonal changes, such as observing Summer Fridays 
  • Holidays, both national and local
  • Current political and social events
  • Extreme weather events
  • Sickness, both seasonal and passed between on-site employees
  • Unmonitored flexible schedules

Benefits of using Smart Technology to Overcome Unpredictable Workplace Attendance

Workplace analytics programs offer users concrete insights into how their facilities are being utilized. During transitional periods such as the ongoing return to office, a clear understanding of how the modern employee needs and expects from their workplace is necessary in order to provide efficient support.

Other benefits of using technology to overcome fluctuating workplace attendance include:

  • Providing office technology like room and desk booking software levels the playing field by allowing for equitable access to work amenities, giving the same access to individual desks, meeting rooms, and collaborative spaces to all employees, no matter their function or seniority level.
  • Anticipating workplace attendance patterns allows building owners to reduce management costs.
  • The more insights business leaders have into their employee behavior patterns, the more they can optimize the employee experience.
  • When employee behavior is monitored, leaders can ensure that the appropriate amount of resources are available at any given time.

While unpredictable attendance has been present in the workplace for decades, now, companies have the power to use smart office technology to anticipate and address workplace fluctuation with workplace reporting and analytics. 

However, when business leaders and building owners use workplace analytics tools to gain insights into how their facilities are being used they can optimize the employee experience. To get started, here is How to Improve Employee Experience Through Workplace Design Strategy

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