POSTED: April 26 2019
Preventing presenteeism in the workplace

Preventing presenteeism in the workplace

‘Presenteeism’ has more than tripled since 2010, according to the latest CIPD report.

It is well known that employee absenteeism can have a significant effect on an organisation, yet what is rarely considered are the negative effects that presenteeism can have on productivity in the workplace.

Presenteeism is the term used to define an employee being present at work while they are sick. Employers and employees alike are all vulnerable to becoming ill, but in spite of this, we still feel the need to attend work. As a result of this, employees tend to let their health become secondary, which in the long-term can have serious consequences for both the individual and the organisation they work for.

What’s so bad about presenteeism?

Employees who come to work sick may be present in body, but are often absent in mind. This level of disengagement from work can lead to employees performing below par, thus not attaining the usual standards that their employers have come to expect of them.

A recent report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) revealed that 86% of over 1,000 respondents noticed an occurrence of presenteeism in their organisation over the last 12 months, compared with 72% in 2016 and just 26% in 2010. The survey also found that 69% of respondents reported that ‘leaveism’, such as people using annual leave to work, is also a growing problem.

Duty of care

If an employee feels as though their employer demonstrates a lack of concern for their health and wellbeing, then coming to work will feel more like a chore, thus reducing their level of job satisfaction. It is therefore important, as an employer to take proactive steps to intervene and help tackle the issue before it escalates.

Presenteeism policy

If you recognise Presenteeism as a problem within your organisation, then one of the first actions you can employ is the introduction of a workplace presenteeism policy, outlining where the organisation stands on employees coming into work sick. This should help employees understand, under what conditions they should stay at home. For example, if their illness becomes a risk to the health and wellbeing of themselves, and their colleagues.

Encourage healthy living

Taking note of employee health and wellbeing may also involve introducing a healthier lifestyle in the workplace. This may range from encouraging employees to take the stairs instead of lifts, to more progressive activities, such as lunch time or post work fitness classes. Not only will this help boost staff morale and motivation, but it will also encourage employees to take their own health more seriously, which in turn can help decrease the level of sickness they experience.

Workplace environment

Additionally, ensuring that workplace common areas and facilities are kept clean is equally important. This may sound obvious, but if office cleanliness is not properly maintained germs can spread quickly. Try educating your employees through the use of posters and flyers, which will serve as reminders as to why personal and office hygiene is vital.

Sickness presenteeism can be a real cause for concern for employers, impacting how an organisation is run and its financial wellbeing. It is important, therefore to implement a strategy that encourages a healthy workplace culture. As a result, you will see the benefits of a more productive and efficient working environment, in addition to employees who are happy and more engaged in their roles.


You can read the CIPD Health and Well-being at Work Survey here.


This article was first published by EAP and health and wellbeing provider Health Assured