What Is Presenteeism at Work? And How Is Employee Presenteeism Harming My Business?

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ACAS defines Presenteeism in the workplace (or sickness presence) as staff becoming “increasingly reluctant to take time off for illness” and ultimately “attending work when unwell and not fully functioning may also be affecting productivity”.

People who commit presenteeism at work and go to work even though they are in poor health or suffering from work-related stress have tripled, according to a report produced by the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) and Simplyhealth. The report surveys over 1000 HR professionals and is the 18th annual report by CIPD/Simplyhealth designed to examine trends in absence, health and well-being in the workplace.

86% of respondents have observed presenteeism at work in the past year, whereas in 2016, it was 72% and only 26% in 2010. Despite current figures for employee presenteeism, very few organisations have attempted to deter sickness presenteeism and unhealthy workplace practices. Only 25% of respondents felt that their business had made an effort to prevent presenteeism in the past year.

Measuring Employee Presenteeism and Absenteeism Costs to Productivity in the Workplace

According to the CIPD presenteeism report, employee presenteeism is still one of the top causes of future long-term sickness absence in employees. Only one in ten employers said to be taking action view these issues as a priority, and perhaps more shockingly, only 58% say their place of work is meeting the basic legal requirements for reducing workplace stress.

When an employee attends work suffering from physical and mental health issues, you can see the cost of presenteeism through reduced productivity.

On the other hand, absenteeism is when an employee is absent from the workplace for a period that you consider justifiable. Employees are entitled to vacation days, sick leave, and leave on religious grounds. Still, when employees abuse these laws and commit employee presenteeism and absenteeism, costs for businesses, both in productivity and finance, can be significantly affected.

Similarly, Leavism is another term used to describe unhealthy work practices, in this case, a staff member using their annual leave to work. According to the survey, 69% felt that leavism had occurred in their organisation over the last year. And only 27% of those who had experienced leavism believe that their organisation is dealing with it.

Combating Presenteeism In The Workplace

With this report being released only weeks before 2018 Mental Health Awareness Week, it is imperative as an employer that you ensure you are following the best practice for reducing workplace stress. CIPD defines the four legal principles of reducing stress as an employer as:

  • Your duty to identify significant and foreseeable risks to employee health
  • Your responsibility to prevent harm to employee health that is foreseeable and caused by work
  • Your duty to consider any physical or mental impairment that has a substantial or long-term effect on their ability to work
  • Your duty is to consult with employees on health and safety matters.

It’s worth mentioning one significant finding in the report that is primarily positive, and that is how technological advances in the workplace seem to be having a positive impact on employee well-being as opposed to a negative one.

Considering the concern surrounding specific job roles becoming automated by machines in the past few years, it’s interesting that most of those surveyed believe workplace technological advancement is generally a good thing. However, approximately 90% of employees believe that as a result of technology, more employees are less inclined to ‘switch off and therefore may lead to higher levels of absenteeism and presenteeism in the workplace.

Presenteeism and Absenteeism in the Workplace FAQs

What measures can I take to try and control absenteeism and presenteeism in the workplace?

ll aware, absenteeism and presenteeism in the workplace can have a detrimental effect on your business, but there are some measures you can take to control them. One method of reducing absenteeism in the workplace could be to introduce a back-to-work interview for employees. The interview would show that your company cares for the employee’s welfare and may help ease them back into their operational roles. For employees who may be taking advantage of having time away from work, knowing that they will need to go through an interview process on their return may make them think twice before repeating that behaviour again.

Reducing presenteeism at work can also be a struggle, but following a few simple steps can help you and your employees. Firstly, ensure that all employees understand your company policy on sickness. Providing healthcare benefits and ensuring management sets good examples. Another good tip businesses should follow is to create a caring workplace culture where employees feel valued and heard. Presenteeism and productivity are closely linked, so looking at employees’ workloads and ensuring they are coping well and not too pressured may help. Finally, it is crucial to measure presenteeism and stay on top of it before it becomes a significant issue for you.

What are the effects of presenteeism in the workplace?

The effects of presenteeism in the workplace get felt by both the employee and the employer. If, as the employer, you have staff members attend work whilst sick through physical or mental health conditions, affecting other staff members, you could see a significant productivity loss. Presenteeism and productivity get closely associated because when any members of the workforce attend work ill, that can cause a productivity issue and also risk the health of other employees. Employees should be able to recover properly to maintain a healthy workforce because working whilst ill can cause more harm than good.

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