Presenteeism Meaning and How HR Can Combat 71% of Employees Working When Sick

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Presenteeism, the practice of employees working when unwell, has become a pervasive issue in today’s workplaces. What may seem like positive forms of productivity can be a dangerous habit for the workforce.

This article delves into presenteeism and explores poll findings from MHR. Further, we will discuss strategies for HR to combat the alarming condition of employees working when sick.

What is Presenteeism?

Presenteeism is the counterpoint to absenteeism. 

While absenteeism involves employees being absent from work, presenteeism is the act of showing up for work despite being unwell or, in some cases, working excessively. It goes beyond mere dedication and often stems from various factors. For example, fear of negative perceptions from management, job insecurity and financial concerns.

When employees persist in working despite being unwell or under various circumstances, they pose a substantial threat to both productivity and employee well-being

For HR teams, understanding and measuring presenteeism is crucial to ensure it does not become an unnoticed and endemic practice within an organisation.

signs of presenteeism

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MHR Survey Findings and How it Impacts Employees

A recent poll by MHR sheds light on the prevalence of presenteeism in UK organisations. 

71% of employees admit to working while unwell due to the stigma associated with taking sick leave. The survey identifies a concerning culture of presenteeism, where employees feel compelled to prioritise work over their well-being.

The impact on employees is significant. 

The fear of damaging career progression is a primary concern for 74% of respondents, revealing the detrimental effects of presenteeism on individual career paths. Moreover, working while unwell leads to decreased productivity and a higher likelihood of making costly errors. 

Ultimately, this impacts both the employee’s performance and the overall business bottom line.

How to Navigate and Reduce Presenteeism

Promoting a Healthy Work Culture

HR teams play a pivotal role in fostering a healthy work culture

Employees should be encouraged to take sick leave without fear of negative consequences. HR can communicate the importance of well-being and establish a supportive environment where employees feel valued and empowered to prioritise their health.

Addressing Perceived Pressures

The MHR survey indicates that perceived pressure from management is a leading cause of presenteeism. 

HR should work on creating an open dialogue between employees and managers to address these pressures. Ensuring that employees feel supported and understood can alleviate the fear of negative perceptions.

Policy Overhaul

Absence management policies should be reviewed and revamped to address presenteeism. 

Punitive sick leave policies may inadvertently contribute to presenteeism by discouraging employees from taking necessary leave. HR can implement supportive structures that encourage employees to take the time off they need for proper recovery.

Employee Well-Being Programs

Implementing comprehensive well-being programs is essential. 

These initiatives can include mental health support, fitness programs, and stress management workshops. By addressing the root causes of presenteeism and promoting overall well-being, HR can create an environment where employees are less likely to work when unwell.

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Flexible Work Arrangements

Offering flexible work arrangements can be a powerful tool to combat presenteeism. 

HR can explore options such as remote work, flexible hours, and compressed work weeks. Providing employees with the flexibility to balance work and personal life can reduce the pressure to be present at the office even when unwell.

Regular Employee Surveys to Combat Presenteeism

Conducting regular surveys allows HR to gauge the well-being of employees and identify any concerning trends. These surveys provide insights into the factors contributing to the matter and enable HR to tailor interventions accordingly.

This challenge, though often seen as a display of dedication, poses significant risks to both employees and businesses. 

The MHR poll findings highlight the urgent need for HR teams to address this issue head-on. By promoting a healthy work culture, revising policies, and implementing well-being programs, HR can combat the pervasive trend of employees working when sick. 

It’s time to prioritise employee well-being, ensuring that a culture of presenteeism doesn’t undermine the long-term health and productivity of the workforce.

Redmans Solicitors and their team of expert employment lawyers can offer advice and guidance on employment law matters. Contact their employment law specialists today!


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