A new survey from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) highlights the growing problem of ‘presenteeism’ – with 86% of employers they surveyed having observed staff coming into work while ill in the last year.
This is up from 72% in 2016, and just 26% of employers in 2010. However, employers are doing little to tackle this growing problem. The CIPD found just a quarter of respondents that have experienced presenteeism say their organisation has taken steps to discourage it over the last year, a figure that has almost halved since 2016 (48%).
Adrian Lewis, Director of Activ Absence says,
“These new figures suggest that people are scared to take time off from work even if they are sick, for fear of losing their jobs or not getting work finished on time. However coming into work whilst ill can make people worse, not to mention spread germs to others if they are suffering from colds and flu.”
“Preseetenism can also have a long term effect on an employee’s health and wellbeing and lead to further problems down the line such as stress, especially if they are regularly coming into work sick. It can be a vicious circle that increases stress as people struggle to work and find it difficult to perform at their best.”
The CIPD found that increased presenteeism is associated with increases in reported common mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, as well as stress-related absence – among the top causes of long-term sickness absence. The CIPD also found that the average level of employee absence rose slightly to 6.6 days per employee per year, up from 6.3 in 2016.
Adrian Lewis says,
“Both presenteeism and absenteeism can impact productivity and employers must do more to tackle these issues. One solution is to invest in technology such as absence management software that can help organisations spot trends, which can uncover underlying health issues such as stress.
“Often employers are blind to what is happening and have no idea that someone has taken a lot of time off sick or regularly coming into work feeling unwell. Having the right systems in place adds transparency and a way to get to the root causes of any rise in absence.
“This in turn helps a business plan more effectively, tailor support if needed and improve the health and wellbeing of their employees. The long term business benefits of looking after your workforce shouldn’t be underestimated, including better engagement, motivation and productivity,”
Here are some other ways organisations can start to tackle presenteeism:
• Develop a policy on both absenteeism and presenteeism and make sure everyone in the organisation is aware of it
• Boost morale in the workplace. Perhaps look at more team building activities or something simple such as ordering lunch in the office every Friday to say thank you
• Encourage people to look out for their colleagues and spot signs if someone is ill or struggling at work. Also provide proper training for managers to recognise the symptoms of stress, ill health or mental health problems
• Ensure managers are aware of what causes presenteeism. Large workloads or tight deadlines can stop people taking time off in order to get things done. Line managers should be able to manage their teams workloads appropriately
• Make sure managers have the soft skills to be able to communicate effectively with their team and promote open communication. They should also encourage positive working and wellbeing practices including strategies for better work/life balance