Work Culture

How leave patterns can predict employee engagement?

By on March 13, 2018

Greater productivity, lesser attrition rate and higher employee satisfaction levels are just some of the benefits of increasing employee engagement in the workplace. Yet according to a Gallup survey conducted in 2017, globally only 15% employees were said to be actively engaged in their work. These dismal numbers show that companies need to look at other initiatives to help increase employee engagement in the workplace. Maybe that’s why they are always on the lookout for the next big thing that can make a difference to how employees work.

Apart from implementing these varied initiatives in the workplace, it is also important to analyze the impact they have on employees. Make sure that you are not wasting precious time and efforts behind activities that aren’t helpful but actually draining resources.

What if you were able to actually predict employee engagement in the workplace by measuring the impact of an existing process? A process that is largely underrated when it comes to identifying engagement levels in the workplace, but is yet a crucial factor that should not be overlooked. We are talking about the leave management process.

An efficient and streamlined leave management process will help you analyze and get insights about employee leave patterns, and thus easily determine their level of engagement and commitment to the company.

There are 3 types of leave patterns that can be revealed during this analysis:


1. Fully utilizing normal vacation time:

Success is many times attributed to long working hours in the office. This is not true. A fulfilling work-life balance is also an integral part of the success. The human mind needs a break from all the thinking and brainstorming every once in a while. Employees who take vacations regularly are better able to rejuvenate and replenish their creative juices.

There are various upsides to taking a vacation. Lack of sleep is often the main reason why individuals are not able to focus on their tasks in the office. So use this time to break your habit of sleeping at odd hours. Cultivate a better schedule that enables you to wake up refreshed and energetic as opposed to tired and groggy.

Spend some time traveling or close to the nature. Focus on exploring and enjoying yourself. Immerse yourself in new surroundings and cultures that you haven’t experienced before. You will be able to clear the clutter in your mind and look at situations from a different perspective.


Employees who take vacations from time to time are generally more happy and satisfied in their work, displaying higher levels of employee engagement. Ideally, the HR department should aim for such leave patterns.

2. Taking shorter and frequent leaves:

Have you observed individuals who seem to take sick leaves far more frequently as compared to others? It is definitely possible that they have health issues. But there is a chance (however small) that this is not the case. There is a way to determine the relation between such employees and their engagement levels in the workplace. Some companies use the Bradford Factor score to get insights into employee leave patterns. It states that short bouts of unplanned absenteeism can be more harmful to the company than planned long vacations.

The Bradford formula:

S * S * D = Bradford score

where S stands for the number of instances or bouts of absence and D stands for the total number of absences in a period.

Consider 2 employees who utilize the same number of sick leaves in a year, i.e. 10 days each. Employee A takes one leave of 10 days at a time while Employee B takes 10 leaves of 1 day each time.

Employee A:

S (1) * S (1) * D (10) = 10 points

Employee B:

S (10) * S (10) * D (10) = 1000 points

Score interpretation:

200 to 499 – Engagement of the employee is slipping into the danger zone

500 onwards – Highly disengaged employee


The latter’s behavior is bound to raise suspicion. The score indicates that this employee is not engaged in his work and thus not fit to continue. It is easy to predict, employee engagement will be low in such cases. 

Note: Don’t use only the Bradford factor to determine employee behavior. It can only provide insights into leave patterns of an employee taking frequent leaves. There could be other underlying reasons that the HR team or respective managers will need to unearth to get to the root of this behavior.

3. Under utilizing vacation to focus on work:

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Today, this old adage is as relevant philosophically as it is scientifically. When you work for prolonged durations without taking a break, your cortisol levels are known to increase significantly. Thus, being over engaged in the organization can be just as harmful to you.

According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, 1 out of 5 highly engaged individuals is at risk of burnout. A serious burnout can have a host of negative effects on the physical and mental health of employees. The primary effects are sleeplessness, feeling depressed, low energy and lower immunity, inability to learn or process information, increase weight, higher chances of heart diseases, etc. These pressures could be self imposed or be thrust upon them by their managers. Either way, it is the employee who is going to suffer in the short time while the employer will also be affected in the long term.

Orthodox companies may be happy that their employees are taking lesser number of leaves. Possibly being under the impression that this would lead to higher productivity. On the contrary, performance gradually degrades and would even come to a point from which there is no return. In unfortunate situations, these employees are let go. While they should actually have been provided consultation to get them back on track.

Another downside is, the company can also incur expenses due to employees not taking leaves. Some policies state that a certain amount of leaves can be encashed if they are not availed. Thus, the company is bound to reimburse pay of unavailed leaves at the start of a new calendar year or at the time of separation with the employee.


Employees who do not take vacations are initially highly engaged at the start. But their habits would eventually reduce their performance and productivity apart from causing a financial burden on the company

Any company’s HR department should keep track of these leave patterns so that they are able to accurately predict employee engagement in the organization. If employees are taking frequent leaves or not utilizing them at all, the HR team should inform the managers of respective employees to ensure right measures are taken.

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