It’s no secret that the healthcare industry is a tough one to work in. Healthcare employees see the full range of human emotions on a daily basis, often without any warning at all; they’re on their feet constantly, often working ever-changing hours, making a sleep schedule nearly impossible, and they’re also exposed to more health risks than people in many other professions given the number of bacteria and viruses they encounter as part of their work.
Given how hard the healthcare industry is to work in, it’s no surprise that it’s also a tough one to manage in. When managers and supervisors are responsible for people in a high-intensity, high-risk environment, they need to be alert and aware, looking for subtle indications that things aren’t going as smoothly as they could be. Managers are always on the lookout for opportunities to streamline difficult processes and improve the experience of both staff and patients.
One of the major indicators of whether a staff member is thriving or struggling with the challenges of the job is their attendance. The following will explore the role of monitoring attendance within good management as well as the tools that are available to help supervisors with this task.
What Is Attendance?
Quite simply, attendance refers to whether someone shows up for work on time when expected to, as well as how many days or hours an individual person has worked. Poor attendance refers to many missed days or late appearances. Great attendance refers to continually arriving at work when expected.
What Causes Changes In Attendance?
While some changes in attendance are to be expected—people’s kids get sick, they need to book time off for emergency dental work or a family matter—paying attention to attendance over the course of weeks and months can reveal things to you about your staff. Abnormally high shift cancellations, sick days, or late days can indicate that an employee is struggling to keep up with the challenges of their life. It can indicate burnout, mental health difficulties, serious illness, injury, or workplace anxiety. Quite often, the staff who are suddenly having a hard time getting to work on time or who are calling in to cancel shifts at the last minute are also having a hard time outside of work.
The Benefits Of Monitoring Attendance
Given how indicative of larger issues attendance changes can be, it’s important for supervisors to pay attention to attendance rates. This can allow managers to quickly notice when someone is struggling and give them time to reach out and offer support; healthcare workers are facing extreme challenges on a regular basis, often encountering scenarios that can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Part of good supervision in a healthcare environment, therefore, is making it clear that people can take breaks and focus on their own wellbeing when needed. If these sorts of overwhelm aren’t addressed, you are likely to have a much higher turnover than needed.
Beyond helping out staff members, monitoring attendance can also help ensure efficiencies within the workplace. No matter the business, money is tight right now, and that means paying people for more hours than they worked or not picking up on the fact that one staff member calls in sick every other Friday without fail (implying that, perhaps, they are not sick but eager for a long weekend) can end up costing money that a healthcare facility doesn’t have to waste. Part of managing employee absences involves keeping an eye on places where the facility could avoid spending money it doesn’t need to be spending. It helps you figure out if there are staff members who aren’t meeting your standards or expectations; and can also let you see who is going above and beyond. Sometimes in a hectic work environment, you don’t notice the people who are quiet and consistently doing great work. If you can look through the data and say, whoa, Jerry has never missed a day when considering promoting people internally, you might not pass over Jerry, who deserves the recognition.
Finally, when working in a healthcare environment, you can never be too cognizant in regards to epidemiological data or patterns in illness. The risks of people within your industry being exposed to bacteria or viruses that could make them ill are incredibly high; if suddenly everyone is out with a particular sickness, you might be able to infer that the illness is spreading throughout the facility in which you work. This can allow you to take quick action to reduce the spread of illnesses both to staff and patients. It can also allow you to notice where there are any weaknesses in your daily procedures. Perhaps you begin to notice that people who perform certain tasks regularly miss working for sick days. Maybe you realize that staff who work the midnight shift four or more times in a row are at a much higher risk of getting sick than those who don’t. You can examine problematic tasks and find ways to mitigate the risks associated with them.
The Process Of Changing Attendance
One of the major struggles managers have, particularly in busy environments like healthcare facilities, is properly collecting and categorizing attendance data. If people call the administration and their absence is recorded in an email sent to the head of their department or scribbled on a sticky note to be shared with the manager when they next run into whoever has answered the phone, it’s really easy for an incomplete image of attendance to form.
There are two lenses through which you need to examine this problem. You need a system by which absences and attendance changes are recorded and shared with the appropriate people and a system that makes it straightforward for sick or struggling staff members to share this information.
This is where applications can make a big difference. There are programs that make it incredibly easy for staff to share their absence and categorize it quickly and efficiently; some even allow for staff to text a single word to a particular number and receive a link whereby they can enter the appropriate data, hit send, and then curl back up under the blankets and get the sleep they need to recover. These systems then alert the appropriate people or provide an overview that supervisors can log on and read through. This can make absence reporting easy for everyone involved.
Attendance Data Analysis
The ideal application will also allow you to present yourself with attendance data in a myriad of formats so you can see patterns and potential problems. Team managers can, at a glance, figure out how many people they have present or absent and for what reasons; it’s incredibly helpful as a supervisor to have a summary of how many people they have working for them on a given day.
The data can also be used to look at an attendance profile for any given employee. In the chaos of the day, it’s easy to acknowledge someone’s absence and carry on with the work that needs to be done. But if you’re able to click on their name and see that they’ve been absent seven times this month, suddenly you realize that something is wrong. You can’t solve problems you don’t see, so having the data that reveals the problem is a key component of smooth management.
Another wonderful benefit of having a concise system for tracking attendance is that employees quickly realize there is a solid system in place. They know that unexplained absences will be asked about and so are less likely to miss work for arbitrary or non-existent reasons. Basically, tracking attendance results in fewer people playing hooky.
In all industries, burnout is a serious concern; healthcare is no exception. Yes, burnt-out staff might still make it to work, but they’re not going to be performing their best, and, especially in healthcare, this can lead to some serious damage. Understanding when you’re pushing staff too hard and taking steps to protect staff and let them know that you care about their best interests is a vital component of management in the digital era. People need to be able to speak up when they’re so tired they got lost twice in the building that they’ve been working in for five years. They need to be able to pause and take a step back when they’re so overworked they can’t process their emotions properly and find themselves crying over dropping their snack. Burnout results in terrible work performance, mental health struggles, physical health struggles, and high employee turnover.
The above information should have outlined the importance of paying attention to attendance within the healthcare industry. There is a ton you can glean if you’re watching the data, and this information can be used to help you improve the quality of life for your employees and help ensure everyone is ready to give the day their all, which can improve the care your patients receive. It can also help you notice problems that need to be addressed within your team or facility at large. Further, having an efficient, easy-to-use system that keeps attendance data organized and accessible by those who need to look at it can help prevent people or problems from slipping through the cracks.
The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.