Effective Call Center Management: Agent Absenteeism

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When an agent is absent, there is a ripple effect that runs throughout the call center as a whole. There is more going on than whether the employee is using sick leave or unpaid time off. In fact, absenteeism can indirectly contribute to the overall reputation of the call center itself. This has potential to dissuade clients from using services offered by the business.

Call center metrics are broken down into four major components: Quality, Responsiveness, Productivity and Cost. Absenteeism is capable of affecting all four indirectly. However, it impacts cost more than any of the others. The number of absent agents is an important metric to consider when comparing the overall performance of the call center.


Defining Agent Absenteeism

An agent absenteeism rate can be calculated by the number of days productivity is lost when someone is unable to show up due to unauthorized leave. Being sick or absent-without-leave constitutes this unauthorized use of time off. Vacation and scheduled leave should not be calculated as absenteeism because those were moments where everyone was aware.

Absenteeism isn’t only focused on those who are legitimately sick, either. In fact, many people may not show up for work for the sake of doing something else. In extreme cases, those agents may never return.

Absenteeism can be calculated easily by call center managers by hand. It doesn’t take much effort to realize when an agent is using too many unauthorized days of leave compared to his or her work schedule.

The global metric for absenteeism is five percent. If agents are surpassing this number, it may signify there is a problem in the workplace that needs to be addressed.


Key Issues of Absenteeism

Absenteeism is responsible for a range of issues in the call center. All of these can lead to higher costs and a loss of morale among other agents. As a result, the productivity and overall success of the facility will suffer.

The most obvious primary loss to a call center when an agent calls in sick is paid leave. While sick leave is there to help agents maintain their personal budgets and lifestyles while they are home with the flu, it still costs the firm in many ways. For one, this leave pays the agent who is not actually being productive that day. The reality is that any agent not addressing callers is decreasing the call center’s productivity regardless of the situation.

When an agent is missing from his or her post, the remaining agents are required to pick up the slack. This means fewer callers are addressed in a timely manner. Even if agents have an exceptionally good call handling time, the loss of just one agent will impact the workload.

Agent scheduling is another aspect that is affected by absenteeism. Most of these are developed according to call volume throughout any particular day. When an agent is absent, the effort that went into the scheduling was for nothing. This means the call center may be unable to maintain a specific level of productivity without calling in those who have days off. At which point, the call center may wind up paying overtime.

A loss of morale is one of those points that not a lot of managers consider; although they should. When multiple employees are missing from their posts, the level of stress increases as calls seem to flow endlessly. This level of stress affects the willingness of others to continue working. This says nothing about the impact to a caller who has to wait longer than usual.


Reducing Call Center Absenteeism

While it’s inevitable that sooner or later an agent will become too sick to work, there are others who simply don’t show up because they are “sick” of working. This is often a sign the call center is not viewed as an ideal place to work. What can be done to reduce the impact of absenteeism and high turn-around rates?

Give Direct Feedback to Agents

Giving feedback to agents helps them realize just where exactly they stand in terms of the business. Good or bad, this knowledge can help agents feel empowered to make change.

Look for Call Avoidance Signs

Call avoidance often signifies an agent’s view of his or her position. Things like excessively long breaks, making a large number of local calls, agent disconnects and other avoidance patterns need to be observed and addressed.

Create Good Working Conditions

One of the main reasons why many agents call in sick is because of poor working conditions. This could be caused by the overall working environment, problems with management or a lack of interest in the organization. A good working environment has potential to vastly improve absenteeism rates.

Provide Incentives for Attendance

Attendance incentives give agents more of a reason to maintain a good work ethic. In fact, many organizations use gamification to keep employees engaged while making the workplace more engaging. This has proven to boost morale, increase productivity and reduce employee turn around.

Create and Enforce an Absenteeism Policy

An absenteeism policy is one that makes sense to both the agent and call center management. The policy should be designed to assist the agent as well as the facility.

Return-to-Work Interviews

After a long period of being away, or if the agent is excessively calling in sick, it may be time for an interview. This helps the agent acclimate back into the workplace while giving management an opportunity to discover the reason behind the absences.


Agents that are absent from their posts do not simply cost the company money for paid time off. It stretches beyond that as it can also cause disruptions in overall productivity to the call center as a whole. The less effective the organization is, the less valuable it becomes for clientele. Develop a strategy to deal with absenteeism. It’s a vital component to the success of any business platform.


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