Presenteeism: What is it Costing You?

Image of man frustrated sitting in front of laptop

We’ve all felt it before. Staring at your computer screen, pretending to look busy, but something is preventing you from concentrating and actually getting any work done. Maybe it’s brain fog, or a nagging stomach issue, headache, or fatigue. For some, this is remedied by getting up and taking a walk, grabbing a cup of coffee, or chatting with coworkers. But for the majority of others, this can be a chronic, ongoing issue and one that takes much more effort to overcome.

Are you familiar with the term “presenteeism”? It’s a phenomenon that’s costing businesses billions of dollars each year, and it’s something that every human resources manager should be aware of. So what is presenteeism? Put simply, it’s when employees come to work even when they’re sick or the idea of being present at work, but not performing optimally. They may not be productive, but they’re at their desk (or in the office) and taking up space. As an HR manager, you need to be aware of the costs of presenteeism so that you can take steps to address it within your own organization. Keep reading to learn more about presenteeism and its impact on employee health, morale, culture, and your company’s bottom line.

Defining Presenteeism and its Effects on Businesses and Employees

Presenteeism, or being present at work while not completely healthy, has become an increasingly prevalent problem in the modern workplace. Presenteeism is the opposite of absenteeism; whereas employees were previously most commonly absent from work, now they are becoming increasingly more likely to show up despite being unwell. This can have a severe impact on their productivity and morale as well as their long-term health. On the other hand, presenteeism can result in decreased efficiency and effectiveness for businesses due to decreased production capacity and increased risk of contagion and workplace illness. To resolve this issue, employers should implement policies that support employees’ physical and mental well-being such as flexible working hours, better health benefits packages, and greater access to mental health programs. By reducing the social plasticity of presenteeism in the workplace, businesses can improve productivity while allowing their employees to enjoy sustained well-being.

How to Identify Presenteeism in the Workplace

Presenteeism in the workplace is an important issue to consider when evaluating employee performance and satisfaction. To identify presenteeism, employers should look out for decreased efficiency, high rates of errors, a decrease in engagement, and difficulty staying focused on tasks over long periods of time. It’s important to recognize the signs so that steps can be taken to help employees take better care of themselves and avoid burnout, such as allowing flexible or remote working conditions or providing better access to wellness programs and healthcare benefits.

The Costs of Presenteeism to Businesses and Employees

While viral illnesses play a part in presenteeism, the biggest factor contributing to presenteeism in businesses all over the world is employee health. It’s no secret that the state of health in the US has been declining steadily over the last 30-40 years and as a result, our employees are unable to focus for extended periods of time, present low-quality work, or do just enough to scrape by. It’s estimated that U.S. employers collectively lose $260 billion annually as a result of poor employee health. Further, 55 million workers reported experiencing a time when they were unable to concentrate at work because of their own illness or that of a family member.

A recent study led by BYU health science professor Ray Merrill that included nearly 20,000 employees found that employees with unhealthy habits are causing substantially higher levels of lost workplace productivity. The researchers found that unhealthy eating is linked with a 66 percent increased risk of loss of productivity, while not exercising is linked with a 50 percent increased risk of low productivity.

Surprisingly, the study also found that the age group most likely to be affected by this loss of productivity was the 30-40 age group and that employees who didn’t believe their workplace would support them in becoming healthier were more likely to have a drop in productivity.

An American Productivity Audit estimates that decreased productivity due to presenteeism costs the US economy more than 150 billion US dollars per year. For businesses, this means increased costs associated with managing presenteeism, such as money lost through reduced efficiency and reputational damage due to negative employee experiences. Employees, meanwhile, bear the brunt of both physical discomforts caused by over-working and the fear of losing their job if they don’t toe the line.

It is, therefore, essential for employers and employees alike to take action to prevent this costly practice from becoming default behavior in today’s workplaces. Ultimately, businesses need to cultivate a culture that encourages rest when necessary, encourages healthy eating choices, and provides mental health services.

Steps Businesses Can Take to Address Presenteeism

Businesses looking to address presenteeism should consider nutrition as well as implementing corporate wellness programs. These initiatives could focus on encouraging healthy behaviors such as adequate sleep, regular exercise, and nutrition, while also offering resources such as psychological services and health screenings to employees. Establishing a culture of well-being throughout the organization can raise employee morale and reduce stress levels, as well as help support higher productivity levels. Supporting employees in creating healthy habits is an important step for businesses looking to address presenteeism.

The Benefits of Addressing Employee Health & Wellness in the Workplace

The practice of addressing employee wellness in the workplace has been on the rise as the health implications and benefits become clearer. Improving employee health can not only elevate improved energy and productivity, but it can also encourage improved creativity and cognitive function among employees. Additionally, improved weight management can lead to enhanced confidence in the workplace. It is therefore essential for employers to provide resources to ensure their employees are in a healthy headspace and able to bring their best selves to work. This can be done by implementing supportive policies such as flexible work arrangements, nutrition-focused wellness programs, and accessible mental health resources. Employers must make sure that their employees feel supported, enabling them to truly thrive in their professional roles.

Presenteeism can have damaging effects in the workplace, both for employers and employees. Thankfully, there are strategies that organizations and employees can use to identify, reduce and prevent presenteeism. Companies should ensure they have tolerant leave policies and flexible working practices which support a healthy work-life balance for employees. Employees should strive to become better educated about workplace wellness, know their rights and responsibilities, be mindful of their workloads, and delegate tasks when appropriate.

Reducing presenteeism in the workplace can lead to higher productivity levels, Improved well-being for both employer and employee, better corporate culture, greater financial rewards, and enhanced reputation as an employer of choice. Make addressing presenteeism a priority within your organization and reap the rewards.

Want to learn more about the strategies I use to significantly reduce presenteeism in the businesses that I work with? Click this link to grab a copy of my new guide, 5 Ways to Naturally Boost Your Energy at Work.

Discovery Call

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