Why Presenteeism is becoming a workplace epidemic

Office & Culture

Presenteeism is a growing phenomenon in the world of work and is costing businesses billions every year.

So, what exactly is Presenteeism?

We’ve all been there, feeling sick and unwell but coming into work regardless. We sit at our desks and only get half the amount of work done that we would have gotten through on a normal day. This is ‘Presenteeism’ and it’s becoming a big headache for companies.

In fact, it’s becoming a growing phenomenon in the workplace and it is costing companies billions. Employees are showing up for work and are not as productive as they could be. Research has found that presenteeism can cut employees productivity by one-third or even more.

There are many reasons why workers are doing this. Some may simply feel obligated to turn up for work or perhaps they have run out of sick days and can’t take another day off. Others may be highly driven and feel guilty about not going to work. This leads to employees with a number of ailments still showing up for work when they should stay at home and recover.

Why is it becoming such a problem?

You would be forgiven for thinking that surely getting some of the work done is better than none at all, but that’s not the case.

When an employee is absent from work you can tell, they are simply not there. But when an employee is in work and they are unwell you cannot tell how much their illness, or the medication they may be taking, is affecting their productivity and performance. Working while unwell can affect both the quantity and the quality of your work.

In 2016 an Insights Report by the Global Corporate Challenge, now Virgin Pulse Global Challenge, found that employees cost their companies the equivalent of three months per year in lost productivity. Of the employees surveyed, the average number of absent days was four, but the most admitted to being unproductive in work for 57.5 days a year.

When these days are translated into figures the results are startling. Those who come to work but are unproductive are costing on average $1500 billion per year. Whereas those who are absent from work cost just $150 billion on average per year.

Speaking about the report at the time of issue, Dr. David Batman, GCC’s chief medical officer, spoke about the need to focus more on what workers are doing while they are at work rather than how many days they take off.

“I preach a simple message – pay attention if you notice something has changed,” he said. “Employees at all levels of a business may be stressed, distracted and struggling to perform at work. As a result, they may be fatigued and this can affect their concentration. So if employees’ engagement with their job decreases or they seem unconcerned about outcomes, you may have a problem – and you will need to act.”

3 Ways to reduce Presenteeism


1. Don’t reward sick employees

In some companies employees who come to work when unwell are viewed as dedicated and held in high esteem as they soldier through their illnesses. Make it clear to your employees that you expect sick employees to stay at home and recover. By doing this, an employee can return to work refreshed and healthy and ready to tackle their work.

2. Recognise causes and symptoms

High workloads and multiple work demands can cause employees to avoid taking time off when they really need it. They feel that if they take time off they won’t meet their deadlines and are putting pressure on co-workers to pick up the slack. It’s important to promote positive working practice and wellbeing and put processes in place to deal with employees taking time off.

3. Examine your company’s wellbeing programme

You need to ask yourself if your company’s policy takes into consideration the stresses your employees are dealing with both in and outside of work. Make sure your policy takes social, physical, mental and financial stresses into consideration and offers appropriate support. This will go a long way in reducing presenteeism in the workplace. Thinking about ways to prevent a problem occurring will ultimately save your company money while also helping your employees.

At Glandore, we have a culture of caring for the people working in our office space. We have created a working environment that encourages collaboration, innovation and an enjoyable employee experience.
If you would like to find out more about us and how we can help your business grow, get in touch here

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