Presenteeism is becoming more and more prominent in workplace culture and it can have a massive impact on your organisation. In fact, according to a recent study by CIPD, presenteeism has more than tripled since 2010.
In this article, as well as letting you know what it is and how to prevent it, we’ll discuss the negative effects presenteeism can have on your employees.
What is presenteeism?
There are two types of presenteeism:
- When employees come into work even though it would be more beneficial for them to stay at home (i.e. when they’re ill).
- When staff stay late or come into the workplace early on a regular basis, therefore working longer than their contracted hours.
Both types of presenteeism can have a detrimental effect on productivity in the workplace.
What causes it?
Unfortunately, presenteeism has become something of culture among workplaces in the UK. It’s caused by a number of factors, including:
- Workplace norms, perceptions, and pressures (the feeling of being obliged to work longer hours)
- Operational demands
- Reduced job security
- Competitive job markets
- Economic downturn
- Instant communications and the pressure to reply instantly to emails etc.
- Lack of sick pay
Presenteeism can also be borne from an absence of wellbeing initiatives. If working longer hours are encouraged in your business, or you don’t make time to ensure your staff enjoys a healthy work-life balance, your organisation could unknowingly be encouraging a culture of presenteeism.
How does presenteeism impact productivity?
Presenteeism poses a huge problem when it comes to your employees’ productivity levels. Though it might seem like a sign of dedication to the job, if your staff is coming into work when they’re unwell, they’ll likely have difficulty concentrating and performing their tasks to their full potential.
Employees working longer hours than they’re required to can result in them suffering from burnout, which again leads to a drop in productivity. Being stressed and overworked can lead to more mistakes, which is not only bad for business but can also affect staff motivation and engagement.
What other problems does it create in the workplace?
As burnout and stress become bigger issues, presenteeism can eventually lead to absenteeism – regular unscheduled employee absences.
Additionally, employees who are feeling stressed, overworked and burnt out are unlikely to feel motivated at work, so even if they’re physically present in the workplace, they may be underperforming in their daily duties. This means that the quality and volume of their work will suffer as a result. Loss of morale can also have a domino effect and rub off on other employees, potentially leading to a toxic working environment.
Another thing to consider is the knock-on effect coming into work when sick has on other staff members. Passing on germs can lead to other people getting ill, creating more absences and further reducing the overall productivity of the business.
3 proven ways to prevent presenteeism
Once you’ve identified presenteeism as a problem in your business, it’s important to find ways to combat it:
1. Spot the signs
As a business owner, head of department or manager, you’re bound to have a busy schedule and it’s possible that you might lose sight of your teams’ workload. In this case, you may not spot any shifts in motivation or wellbeing. That being said, it’s still important to look out for the early stages of presenteeism.
You can do this through regular 1-1 sessions with your employees to discuss how they’re getting on, both professionally and personally. If they’re feeling overstretched, this is your chance to help them manage their workload to reduce stress. Even informal chats with your team can help to flag any potential warning signs.
2. Encourage trust and communication
Sometimes, employees find it difficult to speak to their line manager if they’re experiencing a problem. Adopting a more approachable manner will make it easier for your staff to bring up workload issues, or ask to be sent home if they’re sick.
You can also use employee satisfaction surveys or quarterly performance reviews to open communication lines and discuss any underlying issues.
3. Monitor performance based on a deliverable rather than hours worked
Some employees may think that working later hours than expected is looked on favourably by employers. This sort of mentality is contributing to presenteeism; in the long-run, it could be doing your business more harm than good.
Rather than rewarding staff for the number of hours they’ve spent at work, build a culture that rewards work delivery and outputs instead. This will reduce presenteeism, as employees will see that working hard doesn’t have to mean working more hours than they’re paid for.
Reducing presenteeism will keep productivity levels high in your workplace, which will save you time and money in the long run. That’s why it’s important to spot the signs and put measures in place to ensure it doesn’t become a problem in your organisation.
Understand and combat presenteeism with effective employee absence management
About the guest contributor
David Price is group director for Health Assured: a provider of innovative health & wellbeing solutions. He advises employers daily on how to encourage and develop a healthy workplace, whilst outlining best practice guidance on how to combat and control workplace stress.