The real cost of Presenteeism.

At Corporate Health Results we believe that healthier people lead to a happier workplace. We believe this because, well, the health and wellbeing of your employees is the most important thing. Not only does good health lead to organisational and individual productivity, but also engagement and job satisfaction.

Now, we all know what absenteeism is and what it means for a company. The loss of an employee for a day, or even weeks, due to poor health is damaging to productivity on so many levels. This is clear as day. However, a recent term to describe another detriment that poor health can have on your company is just the opposite of absenteeism, “presenteeism”.

In broad terms, presenteeism refers to the loss of productivity that occurs when an employee is ill or injured but comes into work anyway and is, as a result, less productive. It makes sense, have you ever tried to work at full capacity, wholeheartedly engaged and productive with a seething headache, or a constant cough, or stress levels through the roof? Not easy.

Although presenteeism is a relatively new concept, it has actually been shown to have a far greater effect on productivity than absenteeism does. In fact, estimates are that employee presenteeism cost the Australian economy a whopping 45.1 billion dollars last year (2.7% of GDP).

Presenteeism can describe a lowered productivity level due to a number of factors; coming to work when ill or injured, allergies or asthma, unhealthy lifestyle and mental health. It is super important for businesses to recognise these factors in the path to creating a workplace that is healthier overall, and at peak productivity.

An incredibly common case of presenteeism is when employees disregard or ‘push through’ an illness that is going to affect their ability to work, and show up at work anyway. For example, in a small company, an employee would be more likely to deem themselves well enough for work, as there doesn’t exist someone else to cover their workload.

Obviously, the detriment of that one person’s lowered productivity is a factor, but also contributing is the potential spreading of a sickness to other employees, risking a sort of domino effect. In addition to that, when an employee is sick but comes into work anyway, they are also potentially prolonging their state of unwell, which can lead to further sickness or more time off.

Of course, it is left up to the individual to determine whether they are healthy or unwell, and fit for work. This makes it a difficult factor to monitor. But employers can no longer ignore the massive strain that presenteeism is having on their companies and on the economy.

This is particularly poignant in the case of mental health presenteeism. The mental health and wellbeing of your employees is paramount in maintaining or improving the productivity and capacity of the company. This is indicated by the level of engagement of people within a company. When someone feels supported and appreciated in company culture, they are more likely to be an involved, happy and productive employee. If stress levels are high, work-life balance isn’t realised and anxiety is commonplace, there will be a significant shift in the capabilities and positive attitudes. You want the people who are there, to be happy and healthy in order to be performing at their best.

The relationship between health and employee engagement is clear, and so looking after the health of employees is in everyone’s best interests. It’s important to consider what the workplace can do, as organisational practice, to reduce the amount of illness and injury, and in turn enhance productivity and engagement.

Creating healthier, happier spaces for people to work in is something that were are very proud of. The real difference can be seen in the individual lives of the people working within companies that are looking out for their health and wellbeing. It is through practices such as maintaining a clean and hygienic workspace, that employees, supervisors, managers and bosses can thrive.