Stress, absenteeism, even presenteeism : Many issues are infamous for costing U.S. companies billions. But one that hasn't earned much infamy--even though it should--is tardiness.

One survey found a hefty 15 to 20 percent of U.S. workers are late to the job on a regular basis. Employees may be tardy for a number of reasons (ranging from family responsibilities to job dissatisfaction or sleep deprivation), but the consequence is almost always the same: Lateness costs companies money. In fact, research suggests tardiness is costing American businesses billions of dollars each year.

That means it's time we all started paying attention to the issue of being late to work. Let's take a closer look at the economic consequences of employee tardiness--plus what to do if one of your team members is always showing up late .

How Tardiness Can Affect A Company's Bottom Line

The reason employee tardiness can impact a company's economic standing is that chronic lateness frequently interferes with employee productivity.

That's true in a number of ways. For starters, chronically tardy employees may impinge on their own ability to get things done at work. Arriving late every day (or close to it) means they're starting work later every day. If that time isn't made up elsewhere in the workday, it gets left on the chopping block on a regular basis.

An individual employee's tardiness can also influence the productivity of other team members. When someone frequently arrives after everyone else has sat down to their desks, that can result in distractions and loss of focus among the timelier employees. When other team members are dependent on the late party's contributions in order to get their work done, this may result in workflow bottlenecks. A team member's chronic lateness may also breed resentment among coworkers, which can erode morale and further diminish the team's productivity.

All of this might not result in a major productivity loss for individual workers, but cumulatively, all that missed productivity time adds up to some serious losses.

In fact, a recent survey crunched the numbers on how much tardiness costs the American economy , and the results are staggering. The site looked at the average income and employment rate in each state and combined that data with the results of a survey of 2,750 U.S. workers. They found virtually every state economy is affected by tardiness each year. Take just three examples:

  • Tardy New Yorkers cost their state more than $700 million each year
  • Tardy Californians cost their state more than $1 billion each year
  • Tardy workers in Illinois cost their state more than $500 million each year

And the list goes on. In order to combat the shocking economic effects of tardiness, it's crucial to develop a game plan for nudging chronically late employees in a more timely direction.

Combating Tardiness

If someone on your team is contributing to a tardiness issue (and that includes you!), then it's essential to address it in a constructive manner.

Of course, it's important to understand that occasional tardiness is unavoidable. Traffic, family emergencies, and other issues inevitably crop up to prevent anyone from being on time 100 percent of the time, and employees shouldn't be punished for circumstances beyond their control.

But if a team member is frequently tardy due to less pressing circumstances, it's time to come up with a solution. That might look like any or all of the following:

  • Creating a corporate culture that prioritizes punctuality and making sure that being on time is modeled by higher-ups. This should involve crafting clear-cut policies about punctuality and sharing them with the team
  • Giving employees a more flexible schedule to accommodate family or personal needs that are preventing them from arriving earlier each day
  • Offering rewards to employees who are persistently punctual, thus establishing an incentive for employees to be on time
  • Working with chronically late team members to identify the cause(s) of their tardiness, craft a personalized solution, and provide follow-up support

Bottom line? A team member's chronic tardiness shouldn't be cause for punishment. But it is a sign that their schedule or your company culture might need some tweaking. Pay attention to those signs, and your business is significantly less likely to suffer the economic consequences of people showing up late.

Jan 23, 2018