Is presenteeism the new absenteeism?

The hidden cost of employees who soldier on when they’re sick.

It may sound as though it’s just another corporate buzzword, but that strange term ‘presenteeism’ refers to an issue that employers need to take seriously. Maintaining a productive, engaged and motivated workforce is a task that requires continuous attention from employers, and is such an important part of a business’s overall resilience.

Our 2017 Working Lives Report found that 7 in 10 people have gone into work when feeling unwell — this is what we mean by ‘presenteeism’. Surprisingly, this figure was three times greater than the number who have ‘pulled a sickie’ when they were actually well enough to come into work.

Understandably, employers would love to reduce absence from the workplace due to sickness. But those well-intentioned employees who refuse to give into illness may also be affecting the health of the business as a whole…

5 ways your business could catch a cold through ‘presenteeism’:

  1. If unwell workers don’t take time off, they could take longer to recover. A prolonged dip in their performance could be more costly than a couple of days off.
  2. What they’ve got could be catching. Before you know it, the whole team may be coughing and wheezing.
  3. Even if the illness isn’t contagious, poor morale could be. Having someone around who’s not on top form — or is clearly suffering — can make it hard for others to stay motivated.
  4. More accidents happen when employees are staggering around feeling sorry for themselves. We all know how easy it is to mess something up when we’re feeling under the weather.
  5. Noticeably unwell employees reflect badly on your company culture. People dealing with an out-of-sorts member of staff can easily get the impression that people are afraid to take time off.

These are all important reasons why having unwell employees at work is a false economy. But now for the good news: Our findings suggested that businesses which invest in their employees’ wellbeing — including telling them when they shouldn’t be working — reap tangible rewards.

 Among businesses offering health and wellbeing benefits, more than three in four (77%) believe this has had a positive impact on the workforce. Employers also reported increased happiness levels (41%) among employees, with improved morale (32%) and productivity (30%), as a result of having initiatives in place to keep employees healthy.

So, presenteeism… funny old word, but don’t let that stop you addressing the issue it describes. Because that could be costing you money.

Source of research statistics: Aviva Working Lives Report 2017.

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