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Presenteeism (Part two) – Reducing its impact

Written by: Fit for Work team | Posted in: Blog

presenteeismparttwoLast week, our blog focused on the issue of presenteeism and the impact it can have on a business. Despite not being as well-known an issue as absenteeism, presenteeism is actually more prevalent than sickness absence, and a report from the Work Foundation found that it accounts for 1.5 times more working time lost than absenteeism.

The negative impact that presenteeism can have on an organisation is potentially huge – so what can employers do to combat the problem?

Firstly, it may be time to examine your absence management policies and the effect it may be having on unwell employees. In a recent survey by Canada Group Life Insurance, almost half of those surveyed (45%) were unaware if their organisation offered any sickness absence support. Ensuring that you communicate your absence policies properly to your staff members is key, so that if they do need to take time off work with an illness, they will be clear about what this involves. Particularly punitive absence management policies can also discourage employees from taking time off when they actually need to, which will increase presenteeism and could cause productivity issues.

It’s not just strict absence policies that can increase rates of presenteeism – company culture can have an effect too. More than one in ten people (13%) in the Canada Group survey said that colleagues and senior members of staff had made them feel guilty for taking time off when unwell. Feeling under pressure to come into work when unwell will reduce employee morale and impact negatively on their physical and mental health. All companies need to be able to manage attendance, but it is also important to ensure that employees do not feel pressurised to come into work when they are too unwell to do so.

Another way to potentially combat presenteeism is to introduce a comprehensive ‘corporate wellness’ strategy. This could include things like weekly exercise classes, free flu jabs, provision for mental health treatment and stress management initiatives. A corporate wellness strategy that covers both physical and mental health is a great way to combat and prevent presenteeism by stopping it before it begins, as well as making staff feel valued.

Employers looking for further advice on tackling presenteeism can call the Fit for Work advice line on 0800 032 6235 to speak to a trained occupational health professional. 

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