Presenteeism? That's mental!

Absenteeism, or the fact and reason that people are off work, are commonplace within HR. They usually lead to misunderstood circumstances and disciplinary action but think how much time you could save and how more valued a workforce will feel if you delved into the real reason for their absence and helped them to combat their feelings of fear, lack of enjoyment and make sure they enjoy their work more. Stress is, after all, a big reason for people not attending work or developing illnesses that mean that they don’t have the mindset to undertake or focus on the tasks of their role. This impacts their team and ultimately the business. Anxiety and depression are more reasons for lack of productivity but who really understands, of tried to understand, them?

Similarly, ’Presenteeism’ or “working while sick” - which sounds extreme - can cause and contribute to a loss of productivity, poor health, exhaustion and workplace epidemics. It has also been referred to as “the practice of being present at one's place of work for more hours than is required, especially as a manifestation of insecurity about one's job” and links to the wellbeing and mental health of employees. This is something that needs looking at and needs support around.

As a People or HR Manager, why would you not recognise the signs that something is wrong with an employee, based on a slump in productivity and drop in their target achievement? Would you not suspect that there is a change in circumstances or the mental state of the individual? One of the ways in which the impact can be reduced is by talking to staff and ensuring that you operate an ‘open door’ policy whereby they can approach you and talk about anything that is affecting them, that may affect their job, but as an employer or manager you can support them whilst they are at work to prevent them  taking as much time off. Mental health related absence now accounts for almost 13% of absence due to sickness in the UK.

How can you ensure confidentiality between someone who has a problem and the senior member of staff or team leader handling it? Technology can be an effective way. Emailing someone discreetly can reduce the impact of judgement - not that there should be any - from other team members and colleagues and taking someone out for a walk during lunch time, away from a glass meeting room or communal break-out area could work too. Judgement affects mental health too.

To find out how to improve your internal culture and monitor feedback through a staff survey, get in touch.