How to combat presenteeism in the workplace

By April 23, 2019July 22nd, 2020employee benefits

Have you gone into work when you’re not feeling up to it? Do you check your emails or take calls at the weekend, in the evening or on holiday? Do you work on your commute or feel compelled most days to arrive early or stay late? If you do you are not alone.

Presenteeism is an unhealthy and growing workplace trend.  Commitment and going the extra mile is a good thing.  But, being overly present can have a negative impact on well-being. This can be counter-productive in the long term.  Absenteeism and presenteeism are two sides of the same coin.  And there’s a cost – a cost to both employee and employer.

Just how big an issue is it?

Presenteeism is more than employees coming into work when they are physically or mentally unwell.  It’s about feeling pressure to be ever- present to put more hours in and respond to communications outside of work hours. There are acres of research on this and the general direction of travel shows that it’s an issue now impacting most organisations.

What do the numbers say?

A recent report on health and well-being at work by CIPD and Simplyhealth found that 83% of respondents observed presenteeism in their workplace.  When it comes to working when unwell; a downward trend in the number of sick days being taken could be a sign that people are going into work when they should be off recuperating.  Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that in 2017, workers took an average of 4.1 days of sick leave, compared with 7.2 days in 1993.  An uncertain economic outlook and job insecurities could also be adding to the rising tide of presenteeism.  CIPD president and professor of organisational psychology and health at the University of Manchester, Professor Sir Cary Cooper, reported to People Management: “Although sickness absence is lower, presenteeism is on the increase … the concerns about job security from Brexit and the aftermath of the recession have led to people needing to show ‘face time’, worried that high absenteeism would lead to possible redundancy.”

Meanwhile, research by OnePoll commissioned by Total Money found that Britons on average worked 10.1 unpaid hours per month. This added up to 479 hours of unpaid work each year for 59% of overtime workers.  The marketing research company surveyed 2,000 employees and when asked why they worked more hours, 53% of respondents said they simply had ‘too much work’ and 15% cited pressure from ‘senior figures’.  61% said they did not have a good work-life balance.  Going into work when ill, working long hours and being constantly switched on in work mode can take its toll on the well-being of employees. This subsequently impacts morale, engagement, capability and productivity.

Taking active steps

Smart businesses are taking positive steps to combat this. For example, by reviewing HR policies around absence, sick leave, mental health, and improving staff training.  There are also cultural shifts in management teams. Which are leading by example by working more regular hours and not expecting responses to work emails and calls outside of normal hours.  If your manager and peers aren’t still at their desks at 6.30pm most nights, the pressure to do the same alleviates.

Progressive organisations are also reviewing health and well-being strategies. They are rethinking or introducing employee benefit plans to actively encourage a healthy work-life balance. This is to help their people adopt healthier lifestyles.  For employees striving to rebalance their working lives, the staff perks and benefits on offer play an important role in achieving this. Let’s talk to see how we can help.

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