The importance of Occupational Health intervention in reducing presenteeism in the workplace

Understanding the impact of presenteeism on staff

Presenteeism is two-prong - it’s important and somewhat in many cases, misunderstood. Presenteeism refers to the loss of employee productivity when employees are not fully functional within the workplace due to an illness, injury, or other condition. They may be seen as “being present’ whilst at work, but they are just not performing to their full capabilities.

Many businesses may not feel that presenteeism behaviour within their workforce is problematic. Still, it’s most certainly an issue that can be just as damaging for a business as absenteeism can be. In practice, there are multiple definitions of presenteeism.

What are the different ways Presenteeism in the workplace can show itself?

Another factor of presenteeism is working excessively long hours - but not actually being present at work. This is leading employers to believe they are performing (the old coat on the back of the chair scenario).

It’s also classed as an employee working at a decreased level. This could be due to several social/economic distractions such as childcare issues, online shopping whilst at work, texting or general chatting.

And finally, it’s employees working excessive hours, with the culture of “never switching off”. This leads to staff stress and burnout, which will eventually lead to more sickness and absenteeism further down the line.

A recent article from Personnel Today reported that four in every five employers reported that their staff have been working at home whilst being unwell over the past year, but with two in five not taking any steps to address the issue.

How to identify and monitor presenteeism in your employees

In the CIPD and Simplyhealth Health & Wellbeing At Work report, they reported 84% of employers have observed “presenteeism” during the Covid-19 pandemic, with 75% seeing this within the workplace and 77% at home.

Rachel Suff, CIPD Senior Policy Adviser for Employment Relations, and CIPD President Professor Sir Cary Cooper say in their foreword to the report, "Managing people, and their health and wellbeing, is a big job – and an important one. Line managers are under considerable pressure in the current climate, and they’ll also be experiencing many of the same concerns as those they manage.”

Therefore, the importance of Occupational Health intervention for employers is now more important than ever since the wake of the current Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic served as a catalyst for reshaping work norms, highlighting the need for adaptable approaches to maintaining mental health and overall wellbeing. Nevertheless, the current context, marked by cost-of-living challenges and the influence of interest rate changes, has intensified the urgency for comprehensive support mechanisms. Occupational Health interventions, which encompass a range of strategies to address physical and psychological wellbeing, are now indispensable tools for organisations aiming to prioritise their employees' holistic wellness.

How to effectively manage absenteeism and presenteeism at work

At UKIM, our absence management focus aims to support employers to reduce presenteeism long term within their workforce and keep employees at work, safely, or ensure a rapid return to good health for any team member following an absence from work.

Alan Ballard, Partnership Director, quoted, “Working in close partnership with our clients, our aim is to ensure their absence and return to work objectives are met. At UKIM, we’ll work together to put the correct measures in place to maximise work capacity by building strength and resilience both biologically, psychologically and sociologically. We call this our Biopsychosocial model”.

In our Biopsychosocial model, we first look at the workplace for factors that would cause presenteeism, such as large workloads, understaffing, time pressures, harassment, bullying and job insecurities - these can all be contributing factors. We then look at any factors outside of the workplace. These could be issues such as childcare, having to care for an elderly relative or a poor work-life balance.

How a bespoke consultative service can help your business

Our consultative approach at UKIM means that you will receive a bespoke service that is entirely designed to support your business and employees with a range of preventative solutions and early identification techniques.

This is all complimented with our digital occupational health online portal. This bespoke portal has been designed to assist and advise employers and managers on making their workplaces safer and helping individuals return to work safely and in a timely manner through one digital interface.

This intelligent software automates and manages workflows such as referrals, fast referrals, pre-placement assessments, health surveillance support, along with management reports reducing your administrative and clinical overheads.

Get in touch with our team so we can help you to implement a robust sickness absence management programme to reduce presenteeism in your workplace.