13 February 2020 | Prithvi Pandya
Companies risk suffering a productivity hit if they do not take serious measures to address the problem posed by presenteeism among staff.
Over the past 12 months, seven in 10 (71 per cent) of employers have witnessed presenteeism in the workplace, according to research by recruitment firm Robert Half UK.
The recruiter found that four out of five (83 per cent) workers in London notice presenteeism in their workplace, compared with 62 per cent of employees in the North.
UK business leaders have admitted that presenteeism increases during the winter months, when colds, influenza, and other respiratory illnesses are more common.
Just over three in five (62 per cent) of employers say that presenteeism rises during the school holidays. Meanwhile, over half (56 per cent) see an increase in it during times of stress and during periods of change (54 per cent).
To prevent presenteeism, businesses have been offering flexible working to 45 per cent of employees to boost wellbeing. One-third (32 per cent) of employers said they are actively monitoring workloads, 31 per cent are offering remote working or the option to work from home during the week, while 27 per cent are increasing holiday allowances. Only a fifth (20 per cent) offer mental health support.
Matt Weston, managing director of Robert Half UK, said: "Presenteeism is the invisible burden on business productivity. It's not always apparent when someone is feeling unwell or how much an illness or medical condition is impacting their work, especially if they look fine. Productivity loss resulting from genuine health problems is a serious issue for employers and employees alike, but it is often overlooked.
"Presenteeism is often linked to workplace culture and how employees believe they would be perceived if they were to take a day off for illness. There are steps that employers can take to shift these perceptions, most notably by implementing employee wellbeing initiatives.
"Flexible working, offering complementary healthcare or simply encouraging team members to leave the office on time will have a positive impact. Education is also critical. Ensuring every employee knows the company leave policy and debunking any perceptions that this leave shouldn't be taken is a good place to start.
"Employee wellbeing is central to job satisfaction and engagement at work, which in turn impacts a company's bottom line. Whether direct or indirect, it's important that employers and employees acknowledge the risks of presenteeism collectively to create a engaged and happy workplace culture."