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The problem with presenteeism

By partnersinhr, Nov 4 2015 12:27PM

Hooray! Recent studies have suggested that absenteeism is on the decline! But before you start celebrating just yet, you should know there is a flipside to this good news: a notion known as ‘presenteeism’.

The relatively new term ‘presenteeism’ is “the act of attending work whilst sick”. The opposite of absenteeism, it involves employees struggling their way into work when they’re poorly – often because they doubt the security of their jobs, because they can’t afford to not get a full day’s pay or because they feel there’s too much going on at work to stay away. Sometimes, it’s because the company has created a culture whereby it is seen as “the norm” to work through illness, and a ‘this-is-what-the-owner-does-so-I-should-do-it-too’ mentality.

A 2015 survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has revealed that presenteeism has risen to a staggering 31%. The report claimed that almost three in five employers noted an increase in presenteeism, but have done nothing to discourage it.

But presenteesim can lead to as many problems as absenteeism if not handled correctly. Firstly, when an employee comes into work sick, they won’t be working to the same productivity levels as they would be if they were in good health.

As well as this, they are also likely to infect others – either co-workers or visiting clients. When more of your team becomes unwell, more of them will either have to take leave or work with reduced productivity levels – a situation that is far from ideal.

So, what can be done about it?

Ideally, an employer needs to create a carefully-thought-out wellbeing strategy, fostering a culture of trust and strong communication. There are several ways this can be done:

•Promote more flexible working hours and give employees the option to work from home – this will help them create a healthy work-life balance.

•Look at the culture of the company, and conduct regular performance reviews to identify any issues early on.

•Management should lead by example and make sure they don’t advocate a culture of working through illness.

•Promote health and wellbeing in the workplace, and recognise the signs of stress or ill health.

•Review your sickness policies. They should be both flexible and fair; aggressive absence policies are one of the main causes of presenteeism.

•Establish and communicate these guidelines so that employees know when they should or shouldn’t stay at home.

•Keep the workplace clean and use posters to remind employees to prevent germs from spreading.

If you need help when it comes to advice on managing the balance between presenteeism and absenteeism, please contact Partners in HR today for a free HR Essentials Review.

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