In the past, it was dismissed as a distant cousin to the far more problematic Absenteeism. But in recent years, Presenteeism has developed into a serious workplace issue. In fact, research now shows it has become a costly problem and should not be ignored.
There was a time when Presenteeism was accepted as a gesture of genuine commitment, with even ill health not enough to stop productivity. Today, it is not just about turning up at your workstation with sniffles, a cough and a cup of Lemsip; it includes taking work home or spending the weekend catching up with what wasn’t completed during the week.
Statistics show that this is a fast-growing trend with a real negative effect. Health insurer Vitality discovered in a survey that 40% of UK employees were affected by health problems – a 33% increase on five years earlier. It translates to a loss of 27 days productivity per employee per year, and costs the UK economy about £73 billion annually.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found in its own survey that 86% of respondents had observed Presenteeism in their organisation, an increase of 14% on 2016, with 27% stating it had worsened over the last 12 months.
CIPD also reported that just 25% of organisations have taken active steps to discourage Presenteeism while 61% have taken no action at all. That is a major jump from the 48% who took no action the previous year.
The Real Impact Of Presenteeism
Much as the statistics point to a fast-developing problem in the modern workplace, the true damage Presenteeism causes runs more deeply. Here are just a recognised few:
- Spreads Ill Health
- Drains Workplace Morale & Motivation
- Damages Working Environment
- Business Values Fall
The most logical negative impact that Presenteeism can make is to spread illnesses at work. If one person arrives at work with a heavy cold, then it’s only a matter of time before others catch it from them.
Morale can be seriously damaged if healthy employees find themselves working alongside ill colleagues. It’s not just the fear of catching something, but the low motivation an ill colleague has can eat away at their own enthusiasm for the job. It’s a ‘why should I bother if they don’t’ kind of impact.
People like to work in places where they feel empowered, happy and focused. But if morale is low and cheerfulness is hard to find then relationships suffer and the workplace environment can develop a negative vibe. This can hit engagement and productivity.
The key business values of a progressive organisation are integrity, innovation and honesty. But when an employee arrives at work sick, they may be less enthused about standing by these values. A lack of motivation can result in a fall in creativity, poor concentration can affect diligence, accuracy and quality of work, and there can be a tendency to think of excuses not to see important tasks through.
7 Steps To End Presenteeism
So what can be done to discourage Presenteeism in a workplace? Well, there are some steps you can take.
- Managers can send unwell employees’ home.
- Provide employees with clear guidance relating to the negative impact coming to work when ill can have.
- Train managers to spot the warning signs and establish an official procedure to follow.
- Managers can lead by example and opt not to work themselves when ill.
- Investigate potential causes. Stress can contribute to Presenteeism, so perhaps schedules and workloads play their part in the problem.
- Review the organisation health and well-being policies.
- Foster a culture based on outputs (results) rather than inputs (being in work).
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