How to Overcome Presenteeism

Image Credit: Kheel Center; HL Mitchell; 1937

It’s widely known that when you’re under the weather, the best thing you can do is stay at home and rest until you’ve recovered. However, in the modern working world, many feel as though they have to go to work when they’re suffering with a mental or physical illness. This can be due to high workload demands, fears of redundancy or even feeling pressure from other colleagues.

Presenteeism is the act of turning up to work despite being unable to function at your highest ability and productivity, usually due to sickness. Attending work when ill, perhaps due to work/colleague pressures, can reduce employee morale and negatively impact long term health. Contrary to this, statistics suggest that 88% of people who work more flexibly are more efficient at work, more motivated and happier. Therefore, it’s important to make employees aware that when ill, they’re expected to stay at home and recover.

Reducing presenteeism will ultimately help to save money in the long term, since studies have shown that the costs and working time lost due to presenteeism can match that of sickness absence. It can also make for a more productive and committed workforce, since employees will make more significant contributions and be more alert when at work. As an employer, you can measure presenteeism by monitoring your employees’ progress, conducting employee satisfaction surveys and catching up with workers in regular one-to-one meetings so that you’re up-to-date on their mental and physical health. Additionally, if you haven’t already done so, it’s important to establish an open working culture in which employees can feel comfortable with discussing any health issues – this can help to prevent both presenteeism and absenteeism.

It’s also important to address the causes of presenteeism. Feeling pressure from others to attend work when ill or feeling inundated with the workload are common causes, since employees may feel worried about missing deadlines or guilty about having to pass work on to others. Creating an illness policy that everyone adheres to can really help to reduce these issues.

Developing a healthier and more productive workforce is one of the main ways that you can prevent presenteeism. Raising the profile of both of these issues in the workplace is a great way to do this, especially by adapting them to each individual’s needs – for example, by providing health benefits. Additionally, by training and educating line managers, you can help them to understand the common causes of workplace stress, the differences between absenteeism (being absent from work) and presenteeism as well as noticing the signs of health and wellbeing issues. This way, managers can spot signs of drops in wellbeing as well as create an environment where each employee can discuss their problems openly.

To discuss how you can reduce presenteeism in your workplace, please do get in touch with us via email [email protected] or call 01386 751740.