April 28, 2021 ProgressionHR

The consequences of staff that work too much.

We’ve all had a day off sick from work. Be it for illness, injury or other health-related issues. But the decision to be absent from work isn’t always clear cut.

If we have a big workload to get through or deadlines to meet, dragging ourselves into the office might seem like the only viable option – even though we’re less than 100%.

However, recent workplace studies show that ‘Presenteeism’ can be a bigger problem than ‘Absenteeism’ – for a company’s bottom line and the long-term wellbeing of staff.

What is Presenteeism?

The most common form of presenteeism is when people are on the job, but they are not fully functioning due to health issues.

This can result in a 30%+ drop in productivity.

“We’re talking about people hanging in there when they get sick and trying to figure out ways to carry on despite their symptoms,” says Debra Lerner, a professor at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston.

Too much work isn’t healthy.

Presenteeism isn’t just related to workers turning up sick either. Consistent overworking also comes under the umbrella of presenteeism.

We’re talking about staying at work (far) later than required. Working on the weekends or during holidays. Working at home after work. Checking (and replying to) work emails at all hours of the night. And so on.

Going the ‘extra mile’ can seem like a good idea at the time. But when Presenteeism becomes normal behaviour, the long-term consequences can lead to serious issues such as burnout, stress and depression.

Why presenteeism is on the rise.

There is no single reason why Presenteeism is becoming more prevalent. It’s more a combination of factors.

Worrying about job security/financial commitments is a big one. Many workers feel under more pressure to perform. Especially when companies restructure, downsize or cut staff because of COVID related financial pressures.

COVID has also accelerated the trend of people working from home. The traditional separation of workplace space is eroding, making it more difficult for people to switch off from work commitments. Our attachment to our mobile phones (opening work emails) doesn’t help either!

7 ways to reduce ‘Presenteeism”

Every employer appreciates a staff member who is committed to their job. But there needs to be balance. And real measures that prevent Presenteeism in the first place.

Here are a few first steps that employers can take:

RECOGNITION: Upskill management staff to recognise Presenteeism early on and take actions to remedy the situation.

SUPPORT: If an employee exceeds their sick day quota, try a support structure to that helps sick staff get back to work.

LEAVE: A generous sick-leave entitlement will ease pressure and give workers time to recover properly before returning to work.

CONNECT: Find out how your workers are feeling! Monthly surveys, one-on-one meetings will provide valuable insights.

WELLBEING: Introduce initiatives at work to encourage better mental and physical health.

VALUES: Create a culture that supports people taking time off when they’re unwell, and doesn’t reinforce overworking or coming to work when you’re sick.

REVIEW: Revisit the employee wellness programme you have in place (if any). Look for opportunities to nurture overall wellbeing, and reduce the number of people over-working.

Caring for people will always be a WIN/WIN

Although numerous factors contribute to a healthy, happy workforce, recognising and managing Presenteeism issues will become more critical in our ever-changing workplaces. And as always, the companies that genuinely care about their people, will be those that prosper.

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