Presenteeism – staff coming to work whilst ill – has more than tripled in the last 8 years according to the 2018 Health & Wellbeing at Work Survey carried out by the CIPD.
In 2010, only 26% of the HR professionals surveyed by the CIPD, had seen presenteeism in their organisations. This has increased to 86%.
Why does it matter?
Staff showing up to work whilst being ill means they are not likely to be very productive. They are also more likely to make mistakes, be less creative, be short-tempered or apathetic. Not great for customer service or teamwork! And of course, they may infect others.
Up to 27 days per year, per employee, are lost due to presenteeism.
On top of this statistic, comes the increasing levels of ‘leavism’. This is where staff take annual leave and then use the time to catch up on their work at home and in their own time.
This is compounded by the ‘always-on’ culture promoted by modern technology. Our emails, social media messages and texts are on our phone and in our pocket at all times. Whilst this may be great for getting things done, it also means that you never switch off.
And it seems that only a quarter of business are willing to tackle the phenomenon. If left unaddressed, this could lead to mental ill-health and an increase in stress-related absence.
Why do staff go to work when ill?
They may be committed and enthusiastic staff who love their job. They just love being at work. But it could be that they fear taking time off due to possible repercussions, peer pressure or for financial reasons. It may be that they simply can’t afford to miss any time off work.
So what can you do?
Line managers, business owners, and board members all have responsibility. They all need to recognise when staff are overworked, overwhelmed, stressed and can’t cope.
A great line manager appreciates that everyone at some point is likely to be genuinely unwell and need some time off. Not showing frustration over genuine absence and having a supportive culture underpins this. Allow your staff the opportunity to talk about issues and challenges they face. Remind your team that their health is important. Whilst you appreciate their hard work and loyalty, you want them to be well and should send them home if you need to!
For employers, having the necessary people skills is crucial in today’s’ modern workplace. Recognising the signs of stress and managing workloads and expectations is key. This will help to maintain staff well-being and allow them a proper work-life balance.
You may need to review when your team can access IT. If you think staff are working when on annual leave, introduce a policy where IT access will be denied or restricted when they shouldn’t be working.
This helps to prevent long-term illness developing. Long-term staff illness could impact your business more than them taking time off to recover from minor illnesses.
You may need to review existing sickness policies to see if they are contributing to presenteeism rates. If your policy is not to pay for sickness absence, then its likely staff will return to work too early from illness.
If your business can offer occupational sick pay, health care or income protection schemes, these can bring many benefits. Many companies offer very affordable employee benefit packages designed for the smaller employer.
Think about flexible working. Consider allowing staff to manage their time around external stressors, such as childcare. Or introduce some home working where the role allows.
Employee wellbeing should be at the forefront of any business. For without fit, positive, productive employees, you won’t have a business. And productivity should be measured on work quality, not just time put in at work. If you take a preventative approach to presenteeism, your team’s health and productivity will improve.
If you’d like a free HR Health Check, or to see how we can support all your employment needs, contact Debbie today on 01278 802329 .