Presenteeism vs absenteeism: What costs more?

You are at your desk, focused on an important mail that needs your complete attention. But, you cannot concentrate. Your colleague is suffering from a bad cold. At the same time, your phone buzzes. Another colleague calls in sick, yet again in a span of 10 days. As the HR manager, how do you deal with such opposite situations of the same spectrum?

A brief overview

The issue of absenteeism and presenteeism is a key concern across all organisations. To understand why it is a cause for concern, let us first consider what exactly each of these are –

Absenteeism is when an employee doesn’t turn up for work, either due to health issues, personal commitments, lack of motivation or desire to work. An articleby Real Business quoted a report by ERS Research and Consultancy that sickness absence costs UK businesses an estimated £29bn annually with the average worker taking 6.6 days off each year.

Presenteeism, on the other hand, is a unique situation which arises when employees feel obligated to come in, despite their ill-health. This happens when organisations don’t allow their employees the freedom to take days off due to their ill-health or personal emergencies. As a result, employees are physically present but are not as productive.

Promoting a culture of presenteeism misleads companies into thinking that their employees are healthy and/ or willing to work under any circumstances. The fact of the matter is that they just end up trading absenteeism for presenteeism, which is equally bad for business.

So, what is the cost of presenteeism and what impacts a business’s bottom-line more?

Absenteeism or presenteeism – what is costlier?

Woody Allen once said that 80% of success in life is just showing up. However, when it comes to workplace presenteeism, simply showing up doesn’t guarantee an exceptional employee performance or profits for the company.

An articlein Harvard Business Review states that presenteeism can reduce individual productivity by more than one-third and is a much costlier problem than absenteeism. Despite this, organisations across UK are observing a rising trend in presenteeism. According to CIPD Annual Survey Report, 2016, almost 75% of HR managers observed an increase in employees coming to work when unwell. This not only affects the quality and quantity of output but also impacts the overall performance of your business.

The healthy way out

Absenteeism and presenteeism costthe UK economy £73bn and more than a month in terms of lost productivity, annually. A researchby VitalityHealth also revealed that healthier employees are more engaged and productive.

So, what can companies do to tackle these pressing issues?

A white paper by Activ Absence suggests a few strategies that companies can deploy to counter these counter-productive practices –

Invest in health and well-being

When businesses invest in their employees’ health and wellbeing, they see a positive impact on their workforce, increased employee happiness levels, improved employee morale, and an increased productivity.

Assess stress levels and manage mental health

Workplace stress and depression accounts for a staggering 80 million working days and £9 billion annually. Companies need to have an effective mental health policy in place and must also look for ways to improve openness on such issues in the workplace.

Offer the option to work from home

Adopting flexible working policies can help employees continue working at their own pace, yet fulfil deadlines when they are infectious but feel well enough to work or on occasions when they have certain family responsibilities to look after. Providing this kind of flexibility thus ensures business continuity and improves employee loyalty.

Concluding thoughts…

As a thought leader in human resource management and a new age recruitment specialist, we understand the implications of employee behaviour on your bottom line. And hence, we share valuable insights that can help you get through similar situations. To join us in such conversations, connect with us on Twitterand LinkedInto know more.