A recent study by Vitality, found that 40% of employees find that their work is affected by health problems. Another study found that 80% of UK employees will still work while they are sick.

Presenteeism is the act of going to work despite illness or injury, which results in decreased productivity and can ultimately harm the employee’s health in the long run. This not only harms the employee, but also the business too.

Presenteeism is a true problem that is often overlooked in the workplace. Many employees feel that they need to show up even if they are feeling unwell, which can affect their performance and the overall productivity of the team. Keep reading to find out why presenteeism happens and how to identify it, how it impacts productivity, plus some useful ways to combat it.

Why Does Presenteeism Happen?

Workplace culture – A workplace culture that puts emphasis on ‘toughing it out’ or employees who come in even when they’re unwell can contribute to presenteeism.

Fear of being overlooked – Employees may feel the need to be at work longer than usual, in order to be more visible and more valued and therefore considered for promotions or pay increases due to their perceived efforts. This doesn’t always mean they are at the office working 100% of the time, but just there to be seen.

Financial struggles – Employees who are living wage to wage may feel that they don’t have the luxury of taking time off to recover from illness or injury.

Mental health – Presenteeism can also be the result of mental health issues, like anxiety or depression, which can also impact an individual’s physical health.

The Impact on Productivity

Presenteeism can have a disastrous impact on both workplace productivity and the health of the employees. By encouraging or allowing employees to attend work while sick or injured, employers not only risk a spread of contagions but also a productivity slump.

Presenteeism can:

– Reduce overall productivity.

– Deteriorate physical health.

– Increase errors and mistakes.

– Cause resentment among employees

– Aggravate existing conditions.

– Initiate mental health issues.

– Lead to undeserved promotion or pay rises.

There are, however, some ways to identify presenteeism:

Increased absence – While presenteeism can lead to decreased overall productivity, it’s also important to note that it can result in a higher rate of actual absenteeism as employees become more absent or sick over time.

Quantity over quality – You may find employees working their hours or even extra hours, but the quality of their work is not the same.

Playing it down – This could mean employees make light of the issue or act as if it isn’t as serious as it is, to convince themselves and those around them that they are fine to be at work. Something to consider here would be if you would expect to be off with this illness or injury, why would you allow an employee to remain in work.

Looking at the results – when considering promotions and pay rises, gather as much data as possible to make the decision. Don’t just consider who you see doing the longest hours or being in the office the most, but the work they are producing and the quality of that work.

Strategies to Overcome Presenteeism

There are ways to combat presenteeism. Check out our below examples:

Flexible working for example is a great way to provide support for your employees.

Things such as encouraging people to take leave when they need to, learning the signs of presenteeism, asking for feedback or even planning companywide downtime or events can help combat the impacts of presenteeism and its impacts on not only employees, but the business too.

Another way to combat presenteeism is to encourage team bonding. This builds a positive working culture and ensures employees have someone to talk to at work and that they feel supported.

Finally, offering wellness programs in the workplace, such as meditation and team exercises, can encourage employees to engage in healthy behaviours and support productivity.

How Hallidays HR can help

If you would like to discuss any of the above in more detail, then please do not hesitate to contact us on 0161 476 8276 or email hr@hallidayshr.co.uk. And of course, visit our LinkedIn page.