Companies must improve employee wellbeing to tackle rise of presenteeism

The CIPD has today released findings of a study which highlights the dramatic rise in presenteeism. The report, conducted in association with Simplyhealth, also raises concerns about leaveism – employees taking leave to catch up on their work.

The CIPD has urged employers to take a more holistic approach to employee wellbeing, stressing that the need to invest in wellbeing programmes can no longer be ignored.

Presenteeism and leaveism

The report found that presenteeism – that is, employees continuing to attend work while unwell – has tripled since 2010.

69% of survey respondents have observed ‘leaveism’ – employees taking leave in order to catch up on their work, or because they’re sick and don’t want to take sick leave – in their organisations. Worryingly, however, only 25% of organisations are taking steps to challenge these behaviours.

‘Worrying but not surprising’

CIPD president, Professor Sir Cary Cooper, said of the findings: “It’s really very worrying but not surprising.” He cited the fear of job loss, precipitated by uncertainty around Brexit, as a factor in people’s reluctance to take time off when unwell, and to use their holiday time to switch off.

Other factors preventing us from taking time away from work include heavier workloads, tight deadlines and technology that makes us contactable anytime, anywhere.

Cooper added: “If you’re using your leave time to actually get your work done, that’s not good news for the health and wellbeing of individuals, and incidentally for the productivity of the organisation itself.”

Health and wellbeing strategy ‘vital’

Pam Whelan, Director of Corporate at Simplyhealth, said: “Our employees are our biggest differentiator in an ever-competitive world. It’s therefore vital that health and wellbeing – the body and mind – is looked after in your company.

“In order to tackle these unhealthy practices, it’s vital that [companies] invest in a health and wellbeing strategy, and that this strategy is at the core of your values. You will absolutely see the value in tackling presenteeism and leaveism.”

The role of managers

One of the specific recommendations of the study was to invest in training for senior leaders and line managers. Leaders serve as important role models, while line managers are the first port of call if someone is unwell or under pressure. They are therefore a key means through which to embed a culture of health and wellbeing within an organisation. It concluded that organisations need to go beyond their absence figures and look at the patterns that are driving wellbeing at work.

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Read the full report on the CIPD website.