Browns blog presenteeism: Is it an issue in your workplace?

Presenteeism: Is it an issue in your workplace?

Posted on 14th Sep, 2015 | By Lorretta Tatham

You may be familiar with absenteeism, but have you heard of presenteeism? Even if you’ve never heard of the term, there’s a fair chance it plays a role in your workplace. Presenteeism is essentially turning up for work when unwell. While, at first, one might think this is a good thing, it’s actually quite the opposite. Not only does preseenteeism affect productivity, it also increases the spread of illness and creates a culture where employees feel absence is unacceptable.

Presenteeism: The facts

A recent Work Foundation report found that presenteeism, or sickness presence, could account for even more of a loss in productivity than sickness absence. While this might sound surprising, the logic behind it makes sense. While employees may be physically present, due to a physical illness or emotional issue – such as stress, they are distracted to the point of reduced productivity. In fact, according to the research from business psychology company Robertson Cooper, productivity levels for employees who feel ill drops from 75% on ‘normal days’ to 55% on ‘sick days’.

browns safety blog presenteeism

In another report, from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, statistics showed that almost a third of employers said they had seen an increase in the number of staff who turned up to work unwell. This highlights that presenteeism is a growing issue – and one you might well recognise occurring in your workplace.

One question you might be asking yourself is why employees continue to turn up to work when sick. Data shows that the reasons behind this are that employees are experiencing new levels and sources of stress at work. This has lead to a culture whereby certain individuals are too afraid to be off sick.

Tackling presenteeism in the workplace

browns safety blog presenteeism survey

  1. Make health and wellbeing surveys part of regular appraisals

Two of the most commonly surveys used for this type of appraisal are the World Health Organization (WHO) Health and Work Performance Questionnaire (HPQ) and the Work Limitations Questionnaire (WLQ). Both these surveys help to measure both presenteeism and absenteeism in the workplace, helping you work to an adequate solution.

  1. Create a culture that accepts absenteeism

We’re not suggesting you encourage absence from the workplace, rather that you don’t impose strict disciplinary measures on those who take time off sick. Instead, use the surveys mentioned above to get to the bottom of the problem and tackle each absence on an individual basis.

  1. Make your work environment more flexible

Where possible, allow flexibility in employees’ working arrangements. This will not only make working for your company easier, it will also improve the employer / employee relationship. Flexible hours may be one solution, allowing employees time to fit in parenting responsibilities and medical appointments around work.

If you’re interested in learning more ways to maintain health and safety in the workplace take a look at our Safety Training Courses. From Work at Height safety training to Emergency First Aid, there are a wide variety of topics to suit your needs.

What things have you put in place to tackle the issue of presenteeism in the workplace? Share your top tips in the comments below or tweet us @BrownsLadders

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