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Presenteeism costs more than days off sick

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On average, employees cost businesses the equivalent of three months per year in lost productivity , according to a new GCC Insights® report by Global Corporate Challenge (GCC).

GCC’s study on presenteeism – the phenomenon where employees turn up to work but don’t perform at full capacity – was carried out on nearly 2,000 employees and validated against the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Workplace Health and Productivity Questionnaire (HPQ). The report found that while employees were absent from work an average of four days per year each, they confessed to being unproductive on the job for 57.5 days each – almost three working months.

The cost of presenteeism to businesses was also ten times higher than absenteeism. Absent workers cost employers around USD $150billion per year, but those who came to work and were not fully productive cost USD $1,500 billion per year . GCC Insight’s Data Scientist, Dr Olivia Sackett, said the findings backed up what other recent research shows: that businesses wanting to improve productivity should focus on reducing presenteeism. “Businesses use absenteeism rates as an indicator of engagement and productivity because it’s easy to quantify. If your employee is at their desk or on the work site, you can tick a box,” she said. “But this study, and a growing body of independent research, indicates that businesses are focused on the wrong measure of productivity; absenteeism is not the major culprit.”

GCC’s Chief Medical Officer Dr David Batman is a registered Consultant Specialist in Occupational Health with expertise in psychological health at work. He said it was time to change the conversation and start prioritising under-performance over absenteeism. “We need to stop talking about how many sick days people are taking and focus our energy on what they’re doing when they’re actually at work,” he said. He stressed that presenteeism was easy to identify; and being more tuned in to the wellbeing of employees was not only good business management, it was good for people too. “I preach a simple message – pay attention if you notice something has changed,” Dr Batman said. “Employees at all levels of a business may be stressed, distracted and struggling to perform at work. As a result, they may be fatigued and this can affect their concentration. “So if employees’ engagement with their job decreases or they seem unconcerned about outcomes, you may have a problem – and you will need to act.”

The good news is, presenteeism – unlike absenteeism – responds well to quick fixes.
Data from the report showed that when businesses take a whole-of-person approach to health, it can rapidly transform a workforce suffering from entrenched presenteeism. GCC Insight’s Data Scientist, Dr Olivia Sackett, said, “On average, each employee who participated in GCC’s comprehensive health program gained the equivalent of 10 days lost time. “Employees who participated in the GCC reported substantial improvements in sleep, stress levels and overall happiness at the end of the program. “These changes were associated with improvements in their productivity; so those who participated in the GCC were not only generally happier and more relaxed, they were also markedly more productive than before. “Employees were spending more of the time they were at work actually working – and theywere enjoying it more. This is something that every business needs in order to be competitive.”

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