The Cost to Businesses of ‘Presenteeism’

The Cost to Businesses of ‘Presenteeism’

To a large extent, the cost of ‘presenteeism’ is hidden from employers because most businesses measure the health of their staff by the level of sickness absences. Employees who continue to work whilst unwell do not accrue sickness absences.

Most ‘presenteeism’ cases are related to mental-ill health rather than physical-ill health and research suggests that it is prevalent amongst more highly skilled employees working in high stress jobs. Those employees tend to be the most valuable employees to the business and hence, if not performing at their optimum, the cost to the business in loss of productivity is disproportionate to the cost of absences because of ill health.

Surveys undertaken by the CIPD and research by the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health indicate that the prevalence of mental-ill health in the workplace is vastly underestimated by businesses. In a study undertaken by the Shaw Trust, when they surveyed senior business managers, nearly half of those questioned thought that none of their workers would suffer from mental-ill health during their working life. The Sainsbury Centre estimates that, at any given time, one in six employees is suffering from mental-ill health. The Office of National Statistics tells us that less than a quarter of those suffering from anxiety or depression are receiving or seeking treatment for the condition.

The most common causes of ‘presenteeism’ are anxiety and depression. These illnesses will affect the concentration of the employee, tasks are likely to take longer, the ability to make decisions is seriously impaired and those suffering mental distress may experience conflicts with their line manager and colleagues. The resulting disruption to the business can include increased management time dealing with inter-personal conflicts, customer complaints, loss of productivity, reputational damage and the loss of their most highly skilled staff.

It is well known that mental ill health conditions are most successfully treated at an early stage, where appropriate treatment can ensure that staff are able to continue working and can be rehabilitated to their full level of productivity with minimum disruption to the business. This requires businesses to have a supportive and open environment where mental-ill health is understood, recognised and supported at an early stage.

The CIPD suggest that business culture is a critical factor in improving mental wellbeing in the workplace. Those businesses that prioritise operational demands over employee wellbeing are more likely to find staff suffering with mental-ill health and experience ‘presenteeism’.

To change this culture, leadership buy-in is essential, with senior managers acting as role models for their staff. A comprehensive mental wellbeing strategy can be achieved by adopting an appropriate Mental Welfare in the Workplace Policy, training staff and putting in place appropriate support and communication processes.

Related posts