Presenteeism in the workplace a growing problem, says CIPD

Friday 12 October 2012

Business meeting

Presenteeism in the workplace can have a negative impact on levels of business productivity, it has been suggested.

In a new study, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and Simplyhealth found that employees have taken fewer days off ill this year - with the average number dropping from 7.8 to 6.7 in the last 12 months.

And while this appears to be a positive development, there are concerns about rising levels of stress and mental health problems among employees.

Employers have also expressed concerns that staff members may be turning up for work but failing to do anything productive - a phenomenon referred to as presenteeism.

Almost a third of employers have reported an increase in the number of people attending work ill - with the threat of redundancies and concerns over job security believed to be a contributory factor.

Organisations that are expecting to reduce their headcount in the next six months are more likely to report an increase in employees going into work when unwell.

Dr Jill Miller, research adviser at CIPD, said it is important to air caution before celebrating lower absence levels.

"This year sees a continued increase in presenteeism which can have a damaging effect on organisations’ productivity," she claimed.

"Not only can illnesses be passed on to other colleagues, but ill employees are likely to work less effectively than usual, may be more prone to making costly mistakes and take longer to recover from their illnesses."

Dr Miller said employees are struggling into work to demonstrate their commitment - suggesting presenteeism can be a sign of anxiety.

"Failing to address employees’ concerns is likely to confound the issue, impact on morale and commitment and may cause or exacerbate stress or mental health problems," she added.

Dr Miller urged employers to examine whether lower absence levels within their own organisations are as a result of more effective absence management, or if they reflect the negative impact of presenteeism.

"Overall a proactive approach to supporting employee wellbeing and managing absence, which includes training managers in how to manage people effectively and early access to occupational health services, remains critical for success," he stated.

Posted by Sarah Parish