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Presenteeism linked to increases in stress

on Friday, 04 May 2018.

Presenteeism linked to increases in stress

Few organisations are tackling the growing issue of presenteeism, according to findings from the latest Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and Simplyhealth Health and Well-being at Work survey.

More than 85 per cent of the survey’s 1,000 respondents said they had observed employees coming into work ill, triple the number seen in 2010 when just 26 per cent had witnessed presenteeism. However, just 25 per cent of those who had experienced presenteeism said that their organisation had taken steps to discourage the practice.
The noticeable rise in employees coming into work while unwell coincides with increases in common mental health conditions, as well as stress-related absence.

“Increasingly the threats to well-being in the modern workplace are psychological rather than physical, and yet too few organisations are discouraging unhealthy workplace practices and tackling stress, which is strongly linked to health conditions such as anxiety and depression,” said Rachel Suff, Senior Employment Relations Adviser at the CIPD.

“In order to encourage a healthy workplace, organisations need to look beyond sickness absence rates alone and develop a solid, evidence-based understanding of the underlying causes of work-related stress and unhealthy behaviour like presenteeism. Without this evidence base, efforts to support employees and improve their health and well-being will be short-lived,” added Suff.

The survey also found that ‘leaveism’ – people using annual leave to work – is a growing problem, with more than two-thirds reporting that it had occurred in their organisation over the last year. Similar to presenteeism, just 27 per cent of businesses were found to be taking action on this issue.

An overall organisational focus on employee well-being was found to reduce unhealthy workplace practices. Those who agreed that senior leaders and line managers are bought into the value of well-being were twice as likely to report that steps had been taken to reduce presenteeism compared with those who disagreed. Leaveism was also less common in businesses that had a focus on well-being.

“The report shows that organisations where senior leaders and line managers recognise the importance of well-being as a whole are more likely to report a reduction in presenteeism and leaveism,” said Pam Whelan, Director of Corporate at Simplyhealth. “Therefore, in order to tackle these unhealthy work practices, we would encourage employers to invest in a wider health and well-being approach that is embedded into their culture and one that supports a preventative approach to employee health and well-being.”

Overall, the survey found the average level of employee absence was 6.6 days per employee per year, an increase from 6.3 in 2016.