In an ever-evolving competitive environment, many companies want their employees to be on their seats every single working day. It is a sign that positions are filled, the team is retained and absenteeism is at a minimum. Unfortunately, this has given rise to a hazardous concept — that of presenteeism — says Mike Robinson, chief executive, British Safety Council.
Simply put, presenteeism occurs when an employee goes to work despite being physically or mentally unwell or unfit to do so. Presenteeism can be characterised by workers who are physically present at their workplace, but aren’t working as productively or safely as they should be due to physical or mental ill-health or injury.
Research has shown that in the UK, on average, presenteeism costs businesses £605 (Rs 56,213.79) per person each year. According to a KPMG Econtech report, the overall annual cost of presenteeism to the Australian economy is around $34 billion (Rs 1.76 trillion), nearly four times the cost of absenteeism and equivalent to a 2.7 per cent reduction in the country’s GDP. In fact, a Global Corporate Challenge study states that presenteeism can cost companies the equivalent of three months’ (per annum) in lost productivity.
One of the first signs is making more mistakes than usual – some of which can cause accidents too. The other signs include producing work of a lower standard, or having reduced attention to detail.
Some other factors include arriving late or leaving early, missing lunch breaks or working long hours etc.
While these may not always indicate presenteeism, they could be pointing to something amiss if they become a trend. The more evident signs include working whilst obviously sick, or looking tired and exhausted.
Organisations have to be alert if employees are showing more than one of these signs, or if any of these become long-standing, since it may be an indication that there is need for immediate action.
A recent report by the Manpower Group revealed that globally, 73 per cent of millennials work more than 40 hours a week, and nearly a quarter work 50 hours. The report also highlighted that millennials in India work the hardest, working (on average) 52-hour weeks. When the workforce puts in so many hours at work, it is possible that they may not always be well enough to attend work.
One of the reasons why presenteeism is exacerbating is because of new technologies and improved connectivity that have infiltrated global businesses. Even though many workers are equipped with all the necessary tools to work from anywhere, at any time, there is still a stigma that productivity suffers when people are working from home or remotely.
There is a compelling case for addressing presenteeism as it can severely affect not just the employees but the company too.
*HR must consider workload and skillsets to check if they are asking people to undertake tasks they’re simply not skilled to do. They need to provide good guidance to staff as to when sick leave is justified.
*The senior staff must set the tone and avoid coming to work when obviously unfit, so that employees follow suit.
*Another important aspect is to tackle the stigma of mental health. Given the reluctance of people to discuss their mental health with their employer, employees will often attend work when depressed, anxious or stressed.
Presenteeism is a much bigger concern in modern-day work environments. Organisations must be willing to provide the tools and the time necessary for employees to recover, reset, and return to optimal productivity. It is certainly worth it—both for the business and the people who work for it.