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Preventing Presenteeism in the Workplace

A worrying trend in recent times is the rise of ‘presenteeism’; individuals dragging themselves to work while ill rather than taking a day off. For many HR departments and small businesses this ‘good soldier’ attitude has been cultivated and encouraged but research published in 2010 by Birmingham’s Aston University estimates the cost of presenteeism may be twice the cost of absenteeism.

Preventing Presenteeism in the Workplace

Your employees occupying their desk from 9-5 might look better on paper than a 10% absence rate but a sick employee turning up and infecting the rest of the team while doing less than their share of the workload will not only lead to more sick employees but increase the stress levels in the department and have a detrimental impact on productivity. There’s no doubt this mind-set sucks the oxygen from any team. Only a holistic approach can address it and here is how some companies are putting this right.

Understand what’s important to the people, what motivates them to give the extra effort and, just as importantly, what blockers and barriers if any, are demotivating them. They are regularly asking why people would want to work for them and constantly keeping their finger on the pulse with other initiatives such as staff surveys and focus/consultative groups, as well as feedback from management training (and any other close chats).

Don’t skip breaks

Once this important step has been achieved it’s essential to ensure that this expensively trained, motivated and aligned worker doesn’t begin to resent their work. Encourage them to take the time for themselves, In China it’s considered acceptable for workers to put their head down and take short naps while in Spain workers head home for a Siesta but closer to home employees often skip coffee and lunch breaks. Similarly while absence is never a good thing, it’s important to encourage your employee to put themselves, and the team above the ‘good soldier’ mentality otherwise they’ll potentially compromise the entire army.

There’s no doubt staff value having meaningful work that makes a difference, as well as being exposed to career challenges and training that help them grow. Other than this, a level of flexibility and autonomy that allows them to enjoy life outside work, being remunerated in a way that ‘fairly’ rewards contribution is also important. There’s also working in an environment where the best idea wins, whether it comes from the most junior or the most senior source.

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