The Problem With Presenteeism

One of our experienced Reward recruiters’, Leigh David, outlines the primary issue with presenteeism and why companies must avoid it.


Nothing increases productivity more than a present team.

Presenteeism is the term used to describe the issue of employees working when they are suffering from a physical or mental illness. Usually, this means coming into the office, instead of staying at home and recuperating. Presenteeism, therefore, results in many organisations facing a ‘disengaged’ or ‘absent’ workforce, as employees are not present when they are at work.

Presenteeism is one of the biggest issue’s organisations with high employee turnover are facing. It’s a key problem for businesses looking to retain and develop staff long term, as it is a direct result of an unsatisfied workforce.

Simply put, presenteeism is an issue that is prevalent in organisations that promote poor management styles and do not prioritise employee wellbeing and place it at the forefront of their company values and policies.

Why is this important?

Ultimately, it is creating more absence. According to a new report from the CIPD and Simplyhealth, nearly two-fifths of UK businesses have seen an increase in stress-related absence over the last year, with heavy workloads and poor management styles to blame.

Increased presenteeism is associated with increases in common mental health conditions, as well as stress-related absence, which are among the top causes of long-term sickness. The truth is that most organisations are only committing to the basic requirements for their wellbeing initiatives, as required by the law. If organisations continue to ignore the issue the numbers will only continue to increase.

Unlike sickness absence, presenteeism is also significantly related to performance. Since an employee who comes to work sick, won’t be performing at their best and will also take longer to recover. A culture of presenteeism can be contagious, as it fosters an expectation of needing to be in the office no matter what. Therefore, in the long term, presenteeism may be more damaging to your team’s overall health, morale, and productivity.

What should organisations be doing?

Presenteeism is not just a cultural issue to pass on to your HR team, but reviewing your basic benefits and wellbeing offering is a good start.

  • Review your sick pay policy: Encouraging people to come to work when they are sick will only prolong the amount of time they are sick. If you have an aggressive sickness policy, you may want to review it. If your organisation doesn’t offer pay while ill or if there are bonuses and incentives for 100 percent attendance, you may be encouraging people to come in when they are actually ill, and that is not ok.
  • Encourage staff to take time off – Helping staff to create a healthy work/ life balance is key in ensuring they are healthy and happy, in and outside of work. Most people look forward to an annual, biannual or quarterly holiday. Encouraging staff to do things that they enjoy, and take time away with their family with extra holiday days, is a great way to increase productivity.
  • Create real working from home options: Offering people the chance to work flexibly will separate you from your competition, save your employees money and increase productivity – it’s a no brainer.
  • Introduce a benefits platform: Make sure that the employees in your organisation clearly understand what you offer and that they have easy access to their benefits. You’d be surprised by the number of employees who aren’t aware of all of the benefits available to them.
  • Listen to staff: Your staff often know best. At the end of the day, it is their benefits -listen to what they want! Offer appropriate benefits and wellbeing initiatives that are suited to your workforce. Don’t be afraid to get creative – some ideas could include gym memberships, yoga classes, meditation seminars or wellbeing workshops.


Just like with any relationship, open communication is key. The biggest mistake people make when facing presenteeism is not understanding the importance of conversation. It’s important to listen to your employees and their needs – putting them first will lead to a better outcome for everyone.

Gone are the days when staff clock in at 9 am and leave at 5 pm – people are working longer hours than ever. Whether that be answering emails, taking calls, working at night or through lunch – it’s important to adopt a working environment that supports long term employee health and wellbeing, and to stop trying to achieve more with less.


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Alternatively, are you an organisation with a HR or Reward vacancy? Get in touch with us today.


Tags: , , Categories: Employer, Reward

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