Presenteeism, where employees come to work despite being unwell or overworked, is an issue still impacting businesses and their teams.
In 2023, around 37% of businesses reported facing presenteeism issues compared to 21% last year, which is the highest in the UK since pre-pandemic levels. Likewise, 58% of companies have said mental-health related absences have impacted them this year compared to 53% last year.
Online search trends reflect the need for solutions, with searches for ‘presenteeism’ up +91% since last year.
What causes presenteeism in the workplace?
There are many reasons why presenteeism culture has become so common in the workplace.
With the economy recovering from a global pandemic, the cost-of-living crisis, and a competitive job market, job security has become a concern for many. Presenteeism offers a way for people to prove their commitment to employers and stay on the payroll.
When businesses are understaffed, under-resourced, and overcommitted, employees are the ones to step up and keep the ship above water. This often means that some employees will feel the need to sacrifice their own well-being for the well-being of their company.
Some employers and teams have a work-hard, play-hard, no-excuse approach to workplace culture. While this can effectively achieve results and deter underperformance, it’s also a dangerous recipe for burnout. If employees feel that they can’t take time off they need to work optimally, they could fall victim to presenteeism and ultimately start to lack productivity and wellness.
Presenteeism is a serious issue with some relatively simple solutions. Here’s how businesses can prevent—and fix—presenteeism in their workplaces:
Develop your workplace culture
The key to deterring presenteeism is fostering a culture where people feel safe to take time off without judgement from their peers or punishment from their superiors. Make it known that you care about your employees and encourage them to take time off when needed.
Hire more people
Hiring more people is one way to make people feel more secure and less overworked. Extra hires signal to your employees that redundancy is off the table, and it will give them the confidence and security they need to take time off. It will also mean they’ll have more assistance and be less likely to burn out.
Implement better processes
Put measures in place to cover the work of others. Another key reason people feel they can’t take time off is that it will put them behind when they eventually return. Change this by ensuring people have the tools to cover for colleagues while away.
Introduce flexible/hybrid working
For the most part, working from home means people can surround themselves with creature comforts, family, and a place that feels safe and secure. Adopting a flexible office setup means that people can work from home when they need a break from the office and come in when they feel refreshed.