Presenteeism blights seven in 10 organisations, poll finds

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Seven in 10 (71%) business leaders have witnessed “presenteeism” in their organisations over the past 12 months, with the behaviour more prevalent in London than any other city or region, a survey has suggested.

Recruitment firm Robert Half UK found that 83% of c-suite and business leaders in the capital had seen workers come into the office when unwell. They were followed by 69% of leaders at businesses in the south west and Wales, 67% in the Midlands and 64% in Scotland.

Seventy-one per cent of the 600 leaders polled agreed that presenteeism was most often seen in the winter months, when employees often have colds, flu and other respiratory illnesses. However, employees also struggled into work when unwell during the school holidays (seen by 62% of those polled), during times of stress (56%), during periods of change (54%) and at financial year-end (52%).

“Presenteeism is the invisible burden on business productivity. It’s not always apparent when someone is feeling unwell or how much an illness or medical condition is impacting their work, especially if they look fine,” noted Matt Weston, managing director of Robert Half UK.

“Presenteeism is often linked to workplace culture and how employees believe they would be perceived if they were to take a day off for illness. There are steps that employers can take to shift these perceptions, most notably by implementing employee wellbeing initiatives. Flexible working, offering complementary healthcare or simply encouraging team members to leave the office on time will have a positive impact. Education is also critical.”

Many of the business leaders polled were taking steps to reduce presenteeism in their workplaces. Offering flexible working was the most common initiative, taken by 45% of employers.

A third were actively monitoring workloads; 31% offered remote working; 27% had increased holiday allowances and 20% offered mental health support.

“Whether direct or indirect, it’s important that employers and employees acknowledge the risks of presenteeism collectively to create an engaged and happy workplace culture,” added Weston.

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