Tackling Presenteeism at Work


In the past 10 years, presenteeism in the workplace has more than tripled. A recent study reported that 86% of respondents said they had observed presenteeism in their organisation over the last 12 months. It’s clear to see that presenteeism is a rapidly accelerating trend within the workplace, worryingly, putting safety, productivity and efficiency levels in jeopardy.

Presenteeism is when an employee comes into work when they’re not really fit to do so. Everyone is guilty of it. Whether it’s the feeling that their illness doesn’t warrant time off, the financial implications of a day out of work or worrying about the impact on their own or others’ workloads. There is a multitude of reasons we come into work when we shouldn’t. Presenteeism is the complete opposite of absenteeism, yet ironically both pose similar issues in terms of productivity and essentially costing businesses money. The real question is what can be done to tackle presenteeism at work?

Presenteeism culture

Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects surrounding this issue, and ultimately accelerating its growth is the ‘presenteeism culture’. We live in a society that doesn’t allow for time off, striving to work hard and be productive at all times. There’s more pressure than ever to go into work even when we feel unwell. When this manifests itself as part of workplace culture, it makes it even more difficult for employees to deviate from the norm.

The impact on productivity

According to the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel), 72% of organisations had experienced presenteeism over the past few months. But what impact does this have on productivity? Reportedly, 27 days of productive time per employee are lost each year! This is because when staff attend work when ill, they’re underperforming, are more likely to make mistakes and will generally have lower morale throughout the day. That’s not to mention the increased risk of others in the same workplace getting ill. Failing to tackle presenteeism results in a slower, and reduced output of work resulting in a negative impact on overall business performance.

Tackling presenteeism at work

When it comes to putting the steps in place to tackle presenteeism, two key action points are using open communication and changing the workplace culture. Managers should openly communicate with their team, letting them know that if they are unwell, it’s best for them to stay at home to recover rather than coming into work because they feel like have to. That way, they are more likely to feel reassured in their decision to stay off, and will have fewer feelings of guilt surrounding letting their team down, or feeling as though their job security is compromised. To help to communicate this formally, look at putting together a set process for employees, covering what to do when they are planning to call in sick, and when they should consider coming back to work. As another solution, you could also look at offering reduced hours, flexible hours or perhaps a reduced workload to help with absences as a result of illness.

Provide on-site healthcare services

Employees are finding it increasingly difficult to get a GP appointment, let alone get a slot outside of work hours. This either results in them having to take a half-day, or simply not getting an appointment; both of which lead to lower levels of productivity in the workplace, whether that be from time off, or under-performing due to illness. Why not provide on-site healthcare services to your employees? As part of our corporate GP service, we can arrange for GP consultations to be carried out within the workplace. Meaning that employees don’t need to worry about arranging time off work and they get treated sooner, resulting in increased levels of productivity, and higher levels of satisfaction in employees. If your employees are looking for medical certificates, such as a fit for work certificate, we can help with that too.

Look after your employees and your organisation by tackling presenteeism within the workplace. Get in touch with our team today to see how we can help.

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