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The annual cost of presenteeism is twice that of absenteeism

Posted in Employers on Dec 15, 2016 by Rejuvenate Productions


Like coffee machine breakdowns, train delays and printer jams, absenteeism is an unavoidable part of working life. Absence, however, is only one part of the picture when it comes to employee health.

Presenteeism is probably the biggest threat to UK workplace productivity. Presenteeism, or sickness presence, is the act of showing up for work without being productive, generally because ill-health prevents it. Presenteeism in the workplace is not a new phenomenon – anyone who’s ever dragged themselves to work with a splitting headache could tell you that.

However, if we add this to the fact that over 70 per cent of UK workers are putting in more hours a week than they are contracted for and 25 per cent of UK workers are not taking their full annual holiday entitlement, you can see how there is serious concern towards employee wellbeing in addition to that of productivity.

Those with more traditional views might hold that employees coming to work while under the weather is no bad thing nor is working longer hours than contracted: it shows a certain level of dedication, after all, and it means absence levels are down. However, the reality is that sick and tired employees are likely to be ineffective, and their impaired performance could lead to errors in judgement that cost time and money to fix.

Drawing on research from the CIPD’s annual Absence Management Report and through his work at Manchester Business School, Professor Sir Cary Cooper revealed that the annual cost of presenteeism is “twice that of absenteeism”.

According to the CIPD’s report, employers that notice an increase in presenteeism are nearly twice as likely to report an increase in stress-related absence. And they’re more than twice as likely to report an increase in mental health problems among staff.

So, why does it happen? CIPD’s findings show that presenteeism is more common in companies where long working hours are the norm, and where operational demands take precedence over employee wellbeing. Sickness presence is also often a manifestation of job insecurity.

Employees get sick – it’s how employers handle it that matters

Properly managing presenteeism not only saves companies money in the short and longer term, it vastly contributes to employee engagement and productivity. Here are five ways to help you reduce sickness presence in your company.

Don’t ignore output in favour of input

Feeling real or imagined pressure to come to work when ill reduces employee morale and negatively impacts physical and mental wellbeing. Make it clear that your company expects sick employees to stay home and recover.

Be aware of causes

High workload demands can cause employees to avoid taking time off when they need it because they’re worried about deadlines or overburdening co-workers in their absence. The ways in which line managers facilitate the management of employees’ workloads, and how they communicate and provide support play a big role in the amount of work-related stress people experience.

Recognise the symptoms

Workplace training and awareness raising of common mental and physical health issues will help reduce stigma and provide people with a better understanding of workplace wellbeing.

Examine your company’s wellbeing programme

Does your company’s wellbeing policy consider the stresses your employees face inside and outside of work? A strategic policy that takes account of social, physical, mental and financial stressors and offers appropriate support will go a long way towards reducing the impact of presenteeism. Programmes promoting exercise, counselling or financial management can help prevent illnesses and reduce the impact of long-term conditions, while access to consultations for common conditions like sleep disorders and allergies can have a huge impact on people’s productivity.

Monitor working hours and annual leave

Making sure that employees take their holiday and that they have downtime from work is really important to their health and to productivity. A policy that requires employees to take so many days’ holiday per quarter could be useful. Also, an automated hometime reminder from the Managing Director popping up on every screen when 6 o’clock rolls around and banning email after 8pm except in genuine emergencies could also go a long way to creating a healthy workplace culture.

If presenteeism isn’t already on your radar, it should be. Making appropriate changes to aspects of workplace culture will help ensure your workforce is healthier and more motivated in the long term.

Key Appointments works hard to find the best candidates. We believe that part of this is helping our clients ensure that they are attractive as an employer. That’s why we offer far more than just a recruitment service.

We have taken the time to build strong relationships with reliable, professional businesses whose services we feel could be beneficial to the clients we work with. If you would like to improve health and wellbeing in your workplace then we can introduce you to our network of specialist contacts. Whether you need help with recruitment or would like us to connect you with someone who can assist with health and wellbeing, get in touch.

You can contact us on 0844 5044666 or

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