According to the CIPD's 2018 Health and Well-being at Work Report, 'presenteeism' - the practice of working for more hours than required, especially when unwell - has hit a record high in the UK.
This World Mental Health Day, UK businesses are being urged to evaluate threats to their staff's mental wellbeing and, in particular, recognise and address presenteeism.
Why presenteeism is an issue
Employee burnout is significantly increased through the practice of presenteeism. It can have a detrimental effect on health and wellbeing and, if not monitored properly, can lead to stress, fatigue and other illnesses.
Although they may mean well, in most cases, employees committing presenteeism aren't performing at their full capacity and may be more prone to making errors.
If the employee is working despite a physical illness, presenteeism may also worsen their condition or delay recovery, and cause illnesses to be passed on to colleagues.
How to identify a presenteeism problem
One of the most effective ways to monitor whether staff are working unproductively long hours is to measure performance by their output, rather than their attendance.
By doing this, businesses can identify those employees who are underperforming. Even if a person is working more hours than required, they may still be less productive than others if they are turning up to work unwell or suffering from burnout.
Once a business identifies an employee whose productivity doesn't match up to their hours worked, steps can be taken to offer the right support to help them.
Helping employees get the balance right
In order to encourage a healthy workplace, businesses need to avoid creating an environment where employees feel they need to work extra hours.
Evidence suggests that most UK employees value flexibility above other workplace benefits. Allowing staff to work flexibly or from home is an effective way to tackle presenteeism.
Having systems that facilitate working from home, such as cloud servers and video conferencing, can help create a healthy work/life balance. However, it's important to recognise that offering employees the technological resources to work 24/7 can potentially blur boundaries between work and home life.
By keeping the focus on performance and not hours worked, businesses can relieve pressure and discourage staff from overworking.
Promoting team bonding activities and health initiatives such as yoga classes, for example, can also improve wellness and alleviate stress.
Overall, by making appropriate changes to enhance employee wellbeing and create a positive workplace culture, businesses will help ensure staff are kept healthy and happy, thus improving motivation and productivity, while lowering presenteeism.
Copyright © 2018 Kirsten Cluer, HR consultant and owner of Cluer HR