Employers often speak about absenteeism and the impact staff being off work has on their business. However, there is another issue on the other end of the scale – staff not taking time off when they should be, aka, presenteeism.

We’ve looked at what impact presenteeism could be having on your employees and your business.

What is presenteeism?

Presenteeism can be defined as anything that stops an employee from functioning to the best of their ability.1 This can range from physical issues such as an injury or illness, to mental health conditions like anxiety or depression, meaning they are turning up to work unwell or unfit.2

Presenteeism also includes working longer hours for example, working out of hours or while on annual leave, and even answering emails late at night to stay on top of work – all of which can inevitably be counterproductive.

Going into work when you’re not on top form is on the increase. According to a 2018 survey by CIPD,  86 per cent of workers said they had seen presenteeism in practice at their workplace over the previous 12 months.3 Worryingly, this figure has more than tripled in the last eight years – in 2010, only a quarter of respondents said presenteeism was an issue in the workplace.

Why does presenteeism occur?

One of the reasons staff might work through an illness or injury is job security – employees may worry that if they’re off sick and a round of redundancies is brought forward, they could be first on the list.4

Pressure from the management hierarchy and workplace stress are also seen as key reasons for presenteeism, whilst worries around money is also a contributing factor.4 Collectively, these concerns are driving workforces to work harder for longer, regardless of the condition of their health and wellbeing.

What problem can presenteeism cause for businesses?

Firstly, productivity can suffer as a result of presenteeism. Not only will the work rate of the employee decline if they’re ill, if the illness spreads to other members of the team, the collective productivity could also drop.5

Employee burnout can also be an issue if staff are working longer hours, whether that’s in the office or working from home, at weekends or whilst on annual leave. This could result in mistakes creeping in and poor performance.6

For an employer, there is also a duty of care which needs to be considered. Businesses have an obligation to protect their staff’s physical and mental wellbeing – which can be hampered by presenteeism.7

How can presenteeism be prevented?

There are ways in which employers can help reduce the risk of presenteeism in the workplace and ensure they have a healthy, happy and productive workforce:

Be understanding

If an employee calls in sick, make sure you put their wellbeing first, rather than the business. Ensure you allow them to take as long as needed to recuperate and recover, rather than rushing them back to work.8

Create an open culture

Have an ‘open door’ policy so employees are more willing to speak with managers about issues surrounding health and workload. By creating a supportive culture, staff may feel more confident to take time off if necessary.8  

Deterring out of hours working

A key way of preventing presenteeism is to actively promote a better work-life balance to employees.8 Let staff know they aren’t expected to be available 24/7, especially when they are on annual leave, and that weekends are for downtime, not working.

Return to work meetings

Implement ‘return to work’ meetings when an employee comes back to work after a period of absence. This gives you an opportunity to have an open conversation with them to establish if there are any underlying issues.

Lead by example

Be sure to practise what you preach. Staying at home through illness and injury yourself or not sending emails out of hours, demonstrates to employees that it is okay to take time off to recover and can lead towards presenteeism being reduced.9

Send employees home

Having an ill employee in the office runs the risks of reduced productivity and other members of staff catching the ailment. If you spot someone looking under the weather, be sure to give them permission to go home and rest.9

Help employees keep on top of their health and wellbeing

Have you thought about implementing a health care cash plan to help keep your employees healthy?

A cash plan is designed to give money back towards everyday health care costs, such as dental treatment, eye tests, glasses/contact lenses, physiotherapy, chiropody and even preventative measures such as health screening.

Proactively managing everyday health with a cash plan could help reduce the risk of needing to take time off work through illness or injury – something that benefits both the employee and employer. When you have a cash plan, it enables you to access health treatments that you might have delayed previously due to cost – prevention is better than cure.

To find out more about our cash plans for businesses, please visit  sovereignhealthcare.co.uk/business   

1IFP, 2HR 24, 3CIPD, 4Bright HR, 5Bright HR, 6HR Director, 7HR Magazine, 8IFP, 9Business Know How

Main Logo