Absenteeism and presenteeism in the workplace can be complex issues facing employers.

Although absenteeism and presenteeism are both different, they both share similarities in their effects on employee productivity. It’s estimated that on average, businesses lose billions of pounds annually due to the cost of absenteeism and presenteeism. 

Understanding and talking about absenteeism and presenteeism, what they are and why they happen can open up wider conversions about the health of the workplace and its culture.

We’ll define both absenteeism and presenteeism and list some easy ways that workplaces of all sizes can begin to manage both issues.

What is Absenteeism?

Absenteeism refers to the practice of an employee regularly being absent from work. Reasons for their absence can vary, but the main identifier of absenteeism is if the employee has a disproportionately high absence rate.

Causes behind absenteeism can vary from familial pressures such as caring for a relative or child, to a member of staff struggling with their mental or physical health. Absenteeism can also present when a person feels dissatisfied, overworked or stressed with their job. Organisations with a high rate of disengaged employees tend to have high levels of absenteeism.

Potential risk factors for absenteeism

    • Lack of absence record. If your business does not have an absence management system in place, consider implementing one. It will make things much easier when it comes to keeping track of absence records.

    • Repetitive responsibilities: Studies show that employees whose work involves repetitive tasks are more prone to absenteeism. Encourage team leaders to rotate employees through different types of assignments in order to help maintain interest levels and productivity.

    • An unhealthy work environment: One way to help manage stress at work is to communicate effectively, and to distribute workload. Managers can help their employees communicate effectively by providing an open, honest environment.

What is Presenteeism?

Presenteeism can be more difficult to identify than absenteeism because it is almost the polar opposite. This is when employees are physically present at work, but they’re not productive when they are there, which can be harder to spot. It can occur when an employee feels overwhelmed by their workload, or is affected by pressures caused by an unhealthy workplace environment

Find out how to create a mentally healthy business.

Ambitious employees may also fall prey to presenteeism, especially if they are trying to climb the ladder and take on too much work.

Identifying factors of presenteeism

    • Rises in the level of mistakes: Someone suffering from presenteeism may make more mistakes than usual due to an unsustainable workload.

    • Decrease in the quality of work: This may be accompanied by apathy and lack of pride.

    • Working excessively long hours: The employee may appear to work long hours, but fail to produce the relevant quantity or quality of work.

    • Working while unwell: Depending on the ailment, this may not be initially easy to spot. But an employee having obvious symptoms of illness like persistent coughs and sneezes, and still continuing to work, could be an indicator. 

    • Appearing fatigued. An employee may present with poor appearance or personal grooming.

    • Erratic or unstable mood: Mood swings, bursts of aggression, tearfulness, or deteriorating relationships with colleagues can be an indicator of declining mental wellbeing caused by overwork or presenteeism. 

Find out more about how mental ill-health may present in the workplace.

How to Manage Absenteeism and Presenteeism in the Workplace

To manage absenteeism and presenteeism, organisations can implement different preventative techniques.

High absenteeism rates tend to decline when management teams implement absence policies and deploy efficient ways to monitor absences. This can encourage conversations between team leaders and employees as to why there may be an increase in their absence.

Likewise, open, communicative management that promotes wellbeing in the workplace can reassure employees that they can talk about any concerns or worries they may have. 

Other ways to manage absenteeism and presenteeism in the workplace include:

For absenteeism:

    1. Ensure employees understand the effect of absenteeism

Absenteeism can cost businesses a lot of money. It can also impact the workload and wellbeing of other employees who will be forced to take on additional work to cover their colleagues. 

    1. Implement flexible leave and working policies

Organisations who take a flexible approach to things like working hours and working arrangements often have lower absenteeism rates. This is because employees can achieve a better work/life balance when they are not overwhelmed. This allows people to juggle things such as the school run, child care, or looking after a relative.

    1. Improve workplace culture and morale

Improving workplace culture can be simple things like appreciating employees’ work, praising contributions and initiating reward schemes. When employees feel valued, they’re more motivated to help the organisation, and their attendance may therefore be improved.

For presenteeism

    1. Promote a good work/life balance

Presenteeism can occur when employees feel overwhelmed by the amount of work, or when they are overly ambitious. 

To alleviate this, team leaders and managers should promote work/life balance. Employers should encourage employees to stop working once they have left the office, or once their hours for that day are complete.

    1. Implement and emphasise clear mental health/sick day policies

If an organisation doesn’t have a clear or sufficient sick-day policy, employees may feel under pressure to attend work when they’re not feeling well. 

In office environments, this could see an employee spread an illness to other members of staff, leading to increased time off across multiple departments. 

Mental health days are a new (and welcome) introduction to sick-day policies. Ensure that your business can implement days for physical and mental ill-health where possible. Encourage employees to use these when necessary, without judgement.

    1. Encourage employees’ health and wellness

Encouraging employees’ health and wellness must be a genuine commitment. An organisation which cares about its employees will promote a good sick-day policy and look for ways to support employees. 

Examples of employee wellbeing support may include: additional leisure time; a reduced gym membership; implementing an EAP to unify teams; provide rewarding incentives. These will all go some way towards a positive overall culture of care and wellbeing for staff.

Finally, there’s Mental Health First Aid Training

Mental Health First Aid Training is imperative for workplaces who want to actively take measures to manage their absenteeism and presenteeism rates. MHFA training equips employees with the skills and training they need to be able to identify colleagues who may struggle with mental ill-health. MHFAiders can step in and confidentially discuss issues with peers, while signposting them to the correct support.
At Great Minds at Work we help to support organisations of all sizes to create healthy working environments, and promote workplace wellbeing through the use of Mental Health First Aid Training. To find out more about the courses we offer, click here, or to speak to us today about transforming your organisation with MHFA. Book a call with us here.