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Employers need to do more to prevent presenteeism

Employers need to do more to prevent presenteeism

Is your company culture promoting presenteeism? New research suggests there’s a growing trend of employees braving the office when they’re ill, to their and their employer’s detriment, reports HR News.

Recent figures by ONS revealed UK workers took an average number of just 4.1 sick days in 2017, compared with 7.2 days in 1993. Earlier in the year, meanwhile, a CIPD survey showed that the number of people coming into work sick has tripled since 2010, with 86% of employees admitting they had observed presenteeism in the workplace.

Employees might assume that they’re helping out their employer by coming in ill, but productivity figures suggest otherwise. Research by the Centre of Mental Health shows that presenteeism from mental health alone is estimated to cost the UK economy £15.1 billion per annum, compared to £8.4 billion per year for absenteeism.

The study’s authors concluded that the cost of presenteeism is larger than that of sickness absence.

Commenting on the research, Ciara Morrison, Head of HR and Talent at Instant Offices said that “the more presenteeism today will result in more absenteeism tomorrow”. In other words, they’re presently unproductive for a period, before their illness forces them to take some time off.

Preventing this pattern of behaviour lies with employers. Staff should feel like they can open up and speak to their line manager as soon as they’re feeling the effects of illness, mental health-related or otherwise.

One recommendation is for employers to ensure they have an effective health management strategy that engages employees and supports them in improving their well-being.

But, ultimately, it comes down to culture. Employers can often unknowingly encourage presenteeism with their policies and procedures. An example given in HR News is when companies put a policy in place to address abuse of sick days, which can force staff to work against their better judgement.

So, organisations need to make it clear where they stand on the matter. Perhaps a flexible working policy, where staff are encouraged to work at home when they’re not 100%, could help?

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