Tim Scott: How can employers reduce presenteeism?

Tim Scott

When it comes to staff attendance, much of the focus is often placed on absenteeism and ways to reduce the number of absences or sickness days that staff may be taking.

However, this is just one part of the story. Not every employee opts to take the day off work when they are feeling ill. Instead, some decide to go into the office still, despite not feeling well and probably being less productive, which is known as presenteeism.

Just like absenteeism, presenteeism can have negative effects on a business and its employees. Of course, having staff members who are willing to come into work when they are unwell shows dedication and willingness, but this will not do any good for their health or wellbeing. Nor are they likely to be productive or engaged with their job. A report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and Simplyhealth, Absence management survey, published in November 2016, found that employers with a higher level of presenteeism are nearly twice as likely to report an increase in stress-related absence.

To combat this, organisations need to build an open and inclusive culture where staff feel supported, so if they have an issue or do not feel well, they will be comfortable bringing it to the attention of their managers. Staff should be encouraged to take leave when they are ill, rather than feeling like they have no choice but to work through their sickness. In the long term, this will be extremely detrimental to the health and wellbeing of workers, and may even result in longer-term absenses further down the line. By taking a preventative rather than reactive approach, businesses will have a mentally fit, happy workforce, which, in turn, improves employee engagement and productivity, and reduces the instances of presenteeism.

At Fletchers, we have a relatively low sickness absence but we noticed that 65% of our absences were for just one day, suggesting that staff felt like they had to be in work when they were ill. To combat presenteeism issues and to support our employees’ wellbeing, we implemented a strategy to reduce the number of one-day absences. We improved our managers’ ability to spot when employees were struggling, and offered employee benefits that would enable staff to feel mentally healthier at work.

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At the end of the day, people are key to the success of an organisation, so employee wellbeing should be the main focus of any business strategy.

Tim Scott is director of people at Fletchers Solicitors