Presenteeism - the Hidden Statistic

Presenteeism - the Hidden Statistic


  • Date: Thursday 10th October 2019
  • PDF: Download

Mental health has been in the spotlight for several months now, and employers seem to welcome training and education on how to support affected employees.

In a way, dealing with stress management and mental health concerns head-on now seems logical and even easy, considering all the tools and support systems available to employers and employees.

But what about the hidden ‘costs’ (economical and human) of the phenomenon of presenteeism.

In simple terms, presenteeism means being present but not productive. A business dictionary definition of presenteeism describes it as “the practice of staying at work longer than usual or when you are ill or are suffering from a work-affecting injury, to show that you work hard and are important to your employer”.

Most of us experience days of low productivity and, considering we’re not working with robots, this is completely natural.

But what if employees are in a bad place mentally or physically, to the point where being at work becomes pointless or even dangerous? What if they are forcing themselves to go to work when they are medically not fit to do so? What if we all start playing games of ‘chicken’ and the one leaving work first is perceived to be the least committed one?

Research by the Centre for Mental Health found that presenteeism arising from mental health problems alone costs the UK economy approximately £15.1bn a year, compared to £8.4bn a year from absenteeism. The 2017 government-commissioned Stevenson/Farmer review, Thriving at Work, estimated the costs to employers in the UK at between £17bn and £26bn a year. These costs are due to a higher number of mistakes, lower productivity, fatigue and stress and high employee turnover.

What can you do?

The signs of unhealthy work practices are often difficult to spot, especially in SMEs, where long hours (often delivered by the business owners) are common.

  • The key is to identify if employees are actually being productive during those hours, or if a majority of the time spent at work is spent on rectifying mistakes, re-planning or peripheral activities.
  • In addition, reviewing job descriptions can give an insight into what employees should be spending their time on. If an imbalance is identified, employers should take steps to rectify this.
  • Being a role model and encouraging employees to work smarter, not harder, sends the important message that employers care about their staffs’ wellbeing.
  • A wellbeing strategy can help establish a sound support plan for businesses and their employees.

If you would like to learn more about how to establish a positive Health and Wellbeing culture in your organisation, we are happy to help. Call us on 01752 201 616 and ask about our Wellbeing Service.

Source: Manuela Grossmann, SSG


Bookmark and Share

Return to listings