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Discourage presenteeism even in challenging economic times

James Herbert, CEO and Founder - Hastee
laptop computer on desk

Before the COVID-19 pandemic reducing absenteeism has been an ever-present human resources objective. Not many companies will have seriously considered the effects of presenteeism and how they might impact business productivity in the negative sense. Right now it makes even more sense to monitor if this is a problem for the organisation given the pressures to shore up cash-flow and ensure teams are being as productive as possible in challenging and unprecedented times.

Frankly, most managers will feel that presenteeism would be a fortunate situation, if productive and engaged workers were achieving all they needed as part of a busy and successful team and business. Most situations are not so rosy, though.

The term covers a variety of situations, from employees deciding, often through the best of intentions, to work whilst possibly ill, overtired, emotional, maybe even hungover.

Research last year suggested that people are regularly putting physical and mental health problems aside to show up for work. Whilst it shows a commendable team spirit, it came with downsides for them and for their businesses. The CIPD’s Health and Well-Being at Work Report revealed that 83 per cent of respondents had witnessed presenteeism occur. 25 per cent claimed that the problematic situation had escalated since the year before.

Right now, as many businesses are struggling to make cash flow, regretfully furlough workers, or let colleagues go if the business has no other way forward, it may seem perverse to focus on this challenge – but in fact it’s not a minor or light-hearted problem with little downside.

All businesses have an obligation to safeguard the physical and mental health of their workers. Beyond the law, productivity declines if workers are not in great physical or mental shape for the task at hand. Right now businesses are looking for their teams to provide their best so they can weather the storm together. It’s a challenging situation and the metaphor of the corps of comrades, facing danger together seems more than apt.

Vitality, the health insurer, also shared that over 40 per cent of employees said their work was affected by health challenges. We know right now there’s often little employers can do to stop people from catching a bug – but they can help protect team mental health in various ways.

Well over half of workers (69%) say frequency of pay has an impact on lifestyle choices according to the Hastee 2019 Workplace Wellbeing Study. 82% of workers rely on high-cost credit options such as credit cards, overdrafts and payday loans between pay days. 

Workers currently find themselves in an unprecedented situation, and for some managing their money to buy food at the right time, or find disrupted transport has become a new headache as money and resources are not as in sync as they were.

Financial wellbeing programmes offering education, advice and tools may help many thousands across the UK workforce manage their money with the new demands of an economically dislocated world.

Employers offering staff more flexible budgeting options and greater control over how they access their pay could be the difference between a happier, more engaged workforce, and storing up trouble at an already tough time. An easy to implement staff benefit, although a new concept, is earnings on demand.

It’s a benefit that enables workers to receive a portion of their earned pay immediately through a smartphone app without having to wait until pay day. Employees are given flexible budgeting options that enable them to deal with modern and urgent financial demands.

Earnings on demand technologies can safeguard employees from dangerous high-cost credit options like payday loans, or the high fees of a maxed out credit card or overdraft. The difference is they’re using money they’ve already earned, not money they’ve borrowed. It simply gives them flexibility to access money they have a right to ahead of the monthly cycle – but after they have actually earned it.

It’s one thing to consider adding to the benefits package, even right now in the stress of the COVID-19 era, as the modern, cloud platform technologies don’t require painful integrations, and can match employees with the right money with just a few fields of information from HR and some communications from IT

Even in adversity, a proactively created, stronger, happier and healthier company culture should be built, brick by brick. Earnings on demand is one brick in that construction.

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