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Combatting presenteeism in the workplace

Workplace ‘presenteeism’ is a growing obstacle for employers in 2018. Although employers may theoretically be pleased that their employees are choosing to attend work instead of staying at home due to sickness, its negative effects are now becoming increasingly clear.
sick days

Workplace ‘presenteeism’ is a growing obstacle for employers in 2018. Although employers may theoretically be pleased that their employees are choosing to attend work instead of staying at home due to sickness, its negative effects are now becoming increasingly clear. Contributor David Price CEO – Health Assured.

A report released today by CIPD / Simplyhealth Health and Wellbeing at Work has revealed that presenteeism has more than tripled since 2010. According to the report, 86 percent of over 1,000 respondents in the 2018 survey said they had observed presenteeism in their organisation over the last 12 months, compared with 72 percent in 2016 and just 26 percent in 2010.

Rather than being thankful for the employee’s attendance, it pays for employers to be aware of presenteeism and its detrimental impact. For example, an individual is naturally likely to display a reduced workload capacity if they are not feeling 100% and continued presenteeism will ultimately impact their individual productivity as well as the long term productivity of the business. In addition, having individuals attend work whilst unwell increases the risk of germ spread to other staff members, who could themselves become ill and end up needing to take sick leave.  This is common in the winter months and during flu season, particularly where employees work within close proximity to one another or share kitchen facilities.

Realising the true impact of presenteeism is only the first step; employers should then take active steps to reduce it. This may not be easy because it may involve a wholesale change in mindset of the business; businesses rarely encourage individuals to be absent. Employees’ own attitudes often play a key role too. A worry that their employer will not believe they are genuinely ill may increase instances of presenteeism. Working hard to promote an open and honest culture, conducting ‘return to work’ interviews in a correct manner, and ensuring support to employees who are sick may help to break down employee perceptions. For example, using a return to work interview to check that the employee is ready to come back to work rather than using it as a meeting akin to a disciplinary hearing will demonstrate to the employee that the process is not to be feared.

Employees may also be inclined to go to work whilst ill because they feel they have too much work to do. Employers should be conscious of employee workloads, ensuring tasks are evenly allocated. It is wise to have pre-determined contingency plans in place for work to be picked up or shared if an individual is absent, to allow them sufficient time off to recover. The battle to tackle presenteeism may require a holistic approach, but those who are committed to doing so are likely to be rewarded with a happier and healthier workforce.

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