Employees are putting their health at risk due to an epidemic of presenteeism

employee illness presenteeismNearly a third of employers have reported an increase in people coming to work while they are ill. This is according to the annual CIPD / Simplyhealth Absence Management Survey, which also found that longer hours and focus on operational demands over employee wellbeing are fuelling the increase in presenteeism.

The survey of nearly 600 employers reports that in the last 12 months almost a third (31%) of employers have seen an increase in so-called presenteeism. It also reported that employers that have noticed an increase in presenteeism are nearly twice as likely as those that haven’t reported an increase in stress-related absence, and more than twice as likely to report an increase in mental health problems amongst its staff.

However, despite this, nearly three-fifths (56%) of organisations that have reported an increase in presenteeism haven’t taken any steps to discourage it.

[Tweet “56% of companies that report an increase in #presenteeism take no steps to discourage it”]


Reducing presenteeism

Presenteeism is more likely where there is an organisational culture in which working long hours is seen to be the norm, and where operational demands take precedence over employee wellbeing. As a result employees come to work despite being ill.

This type of employee behaviour is potentially a hangover from the recession, where employees who were fearful for their jobs didn’t want to give employers an excuse to make them redundant.

It’s a harmful habit, but employers have a duty of care towards employees and need to ensure they are taking proactive steps to look after their employees’ health and wellbeing and reduce presenteeism.


Change the organisational culture

One of the leading causes of presenteeism is the culture of the company, as this creates the mindset and behaviours that lead to presentism. If you’re suffering from presenteeism, look at the values of your organisation, are they conducive to employee health and wellbeing? If not, then it’s time to re-evaluate them.

It’s important to promote and communicate your organisational values, and this means ensuring that the leadership and management teams not only talk the talk but walk the walk when it comes to providing support to employees. Managers, in particular, need to support their individual employees both in terms of their role, such as their to workload, and their employees’ health, such as stress levels.


Promote employee health and wellbeing

Your employees’ health and wellbeing should be part of your overall business strategy, which means ensuring that your organisation has wellbeing benefits and services in place that both encourage employees to look after their health and provide support when they need it. In addition to addressing cultural issues there are a two key ways you can invest in the health of your employees:


1. Fitness initiatives

employee health benefitsMany organisations encourage healthy living by running fitness initiatives for their employees. These can include emails and cards to staff, giving them time out during the day to workout (for example, longer lunch breaks), on-site showers and changing facilities, incentives and celebrating individual successes, and inter-department competitions (such as a walking challenge).


2. Employee wellbeing benefits

Employee benefits can also play a big part in encouraging employees to live healthier and change attitudes. Access to local gyms, subsidies on fitness equipment and free health screening are attractive benefits.


But don’t just consider physical wellbeing, you should also recognise mental wellbeing. Financial worries is one of the causes of stress, but organisations can help employees deal with stress, both at work and in their personal lives, by implementing benefits such as Employee Assistance Programmes and financial wellbeing programmes.


Presenteeism has an adverse effect on both employees’ health and the health of the organisation. But employers can reverse that. By looking after your employees’ health, you can improve productivity, staff retention and the ability to recruit top talent, which means better business performance and bottom line results.


John Sylvester

John is responsible for the motivation division of p&mm ltd and a Director on the board of the IPM. Specialising in developing, implementing and directing many large scale staff motivation, recognition and employee communications programmes.
Connect with John on  | Twitter


Speak Your Mind


fifteen − 10 =