Presenteeism – or employees working whilst mentally or physically unwell – is a growing problem for employers, and it’s now considered the biggest threat to productivity in the UK. 

Our blog ‘Is presenteeism impacting your business?’ highlights the potentially significant costs to your business and why you should take action. At Benenden Health, we believe that prevention is always better than the cure. Whilst you can’t stop your employees from ever being unwell, there are things you can do to prevent the costs from escalating.

Understanding the key causes of presenteeism is vital to address the problem.

What’s causing presenteeism?

Some key reasons why employees come into work despite being mentally or physically unwell are:

  1. Fears of job security – believing that absence will negatively impact their reputation, or potential for progression in the workplace
  2. Lack of pay when absent – especially for those dependant on their salary to pay rent, bills, childcare or day-to-day living costs
  3. A heavy workload – if their work won’t be taken care of while they’re off, an unmanageable workload on their return can cause more anxiety and stress than being at work unwell
  4. Not recognising mental illness as a ‘real problem’ – therefore not treating it in the way they would with a physical illness. (A 2018 survey from Canada Life Group showed that over a fifth of UK employees went to work when they felt mentally unfit for it – and this was a 4% increase from the year before)

How can you help prevent presenteeism?

Reward and recognise your staff  

This can help show your employees they’re valued, and help them feel more secure at work. Read our blog ‘Employee rewards: do they boost productivity?’ to discover some effective ways to recognise employees, and some common pitfalls to avoid. 

Be transparent

Being open and clear, where appropriate, about business performance and any organisational changes you foresee in the near future can foster a more trusting and relaxed atmosphere for employees. Especially those with anxiety around job security. In turn they may feel more comfortable taking time off work when it’s needed.

Review your sick-pay policy

If your organisation has a minimum employment time in order for employees to receive sick pay, consider reviewing this. At Benenden Health, we recently reviewed and amended our own policy after seeing high levels of presenteeism, and we saw positive results. Looking at absence records will help you identify if this is an issue, by seeing how many of those taking time off are longer-term employees.

Create an absence strategy

Make sure you have appropriately trained and qualified cover staff or extra resource you can pull in when needed, so that unwell employees have peace of mind that when they’re away their work will be covered. Plus, your business won’t suffer either. This will help encourage employees to take the time they need to recover, no matter what’s going on at work or how pressing their deadlines are. 

Create an open culture around mental health

Foster a supportive and open culture around mental health, where employees feel more comfortable talking about it and owning it. Read our blog ‘4 Practical steps to foster a culture of openness around mental health’ to on discover some tips to help you.

Offering an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) with 24/7 helplines can be a convenient and cost-effective way to support these employees by giving them access to the help and resources they need for any mental health concerns, in a confidential space, before their problems escalate. A full EAP is now included within our Benenden Healthcare for Business package.

Be flexible

Where appropriate, consider introducing flexible working hours or working from home schemes, so if employees aren’t feeling 100%, they could work from home, visit the doctors, or make more time to relax during their working day. Allowing your employees to manage their own time and workload can help them feel trusted and valued, and it also means they won’t make everyone else ill too.

Look after their health

Looking after your employees’ health is crucial to maintain a productive and motivated workforce. That’s why medical cover is now considered as the most important benefit to offer employees, according to two thirds of HR professionals.

Benenden Healthcare for Business is an affordable alternative to health insurance, that’s suitable for all businesses. We can help you build and maintain a happier, healthier and more resilient workforce by providing access to private treatment and surgery when the NHS can’t help in a timely manner, as well as providing physiotherapy, a 24/7 GP helpline and a tailored EAP. 

Failing to put measures in place to minimise presenteeism can result in significant costs to your business. But every business is different, so it’s important to research and understand the specific causes of presenteeism at your company, to discover which initiatives will be most appropriate and effective.

Give us a call today on 0808 278 8405​ to find out how we could help your business.