Absenteeism, presenteeism and business - Business Works
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Absenteeism, presenteeism and business

by Mike Davis, Head of SME, AXA PPP Healthcare When someone is absent from work, the remaining staff may take on the extra load. But when they come in to work sick, everyone is at risk of catching a cold. Mike Davis, Head of SME at AXA PPP Healthcare asks, which is worse?

It will not come as a surprise to any business owners that an employee's absence from work can be a disruption and according to a report by ERS Research and Consultancy, sickness absence costs UK businesses an estimated £29bn annually, with the average worker taking 6.6 days off each year.

If someone is absent from work, it can cause a range of problems: work doesn't get done or remaining employees can get over-worked. There can be a drop-off in productivity and things can fall through the cracks.

Despite the severity of the problem, only 91% of firms track staff absences, with 39% logging them on paper or in a spreadsheet, leaving it open to human error, according research commissioned by Moorepay. This means businesses are failing to track the true picture of absenteeism. In addition, other absences are only monitored to some extent, for example, due to training (55%), compassionate leave (51%), medical appointments (50%), sabbaticals (28%) and 'duvet days' (20%).

Meanwhile, presenteeism can be almost as bad. This is when an employee comes in to work despite being too ill to be productive. This often goes hand in hand with high-pressure workplaces where employees are stressed and feel obligated to come in.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) reported that 86% of over 1000 respondents to a survey conducted for 2018 said that they had observed presenteeism in their organisation over the last 12 months. This compared with 72% in 2016 and just 26% in 2010.

More recently, over three-in-ten organisations reported an increase in people coming in to work ill in the past 12 months, according to ERS.

This can be bad news for the remaining employees - even though they may not be asked to take on an extra share of the workload. Working in close conditions can mean your office becomes a petri dish for disease if the illness is contagious - before you know it, half you staff could be struck ill.

Organisations that had noticed an increase in presenteeism are nearly twice as likely to report an increase in stress-related absence than those who hadn't (64% versus 35%).

Presenteeism is also much more likely to happen when workloads are piled high or if job security is threatened and can be reduced with improved management practices.

To make matters worse, presenteeism denies the employee time to recover, meaning the period of ill-health is generally stretched out.

Working conditions can even exacerbate illnesses. According to research from Fellowes, UK employees are regularly suffering from backache (34%), neck ache (25%) and headaches (23%) as a direct result of how they are working.

The overall effect is, of course, that productivity takes a hit.

Overall, due to ill health, it is estimated that UK employers are losing 27.5 days of productive work per employee each year, according to research from Britain's Healthiest Workplace (BHW).

Absenteeism is exacerbated by poor absence management practices. Too many companies are still failing to track absence management and are in the dark about the extent of their absence issues, unable to identity and address issues early on.

People spend a great deal of time at work and employers are in a unique position to tackle these risk factors and develop appropriate wellbeing strategies that will encourage employees to become healthier, happier and more engaged.

For more information, please visit: AXA PPP's small business site

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