What is presenteeism in the workplace?
The phrase ‘presenteeism’ is defined as when an employee is present at work whilst they are unwell. It is the practice of being present at one’s workplace for more hours than required, especially as a manifestation of insecurity about one’s job.
BBC News has recently reported that 83% of workers said that presenteeism existed in their workplace. A quarter said it had become worse over the past year. This suggests presenteeism is a growing threat to businesses around the world.
However, according to Personnel Today, a new category of presenteeism needs to be considered.
Redefining presenteeism at work
This new category of presenteeism is the notion that workers are not able to act, or feel that they can act, their true selves within their working environment. This can include:
- Bringing their outgoing or introverted personalities;
- Their sexual orientation; and
- The true expression of their race and culture.
A report from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) in 2020 revealed that black African and black Caribbean graduates were 6.3% and 7.9% points less likely to be happy whilst carrying out their work in comparison to their white colleagues.
Further, a study undertaken by the CIPD found that LGBT+ employees are more likely to experience workplace conflict and harassment compared to their heterosexual colleagues.
Due to this many professionals are holding back on being their true selves at work, which then affects their happiness and productivity. This includes:
- Not revealing their sexuality in the workplace;
- Feeling more comfortable with their cameras off on virtual calls; and
- Purposely dressing more conservatively to hide their race and/or identity.
Understandably, workers are far more likely to be productive, produce high-standard pieces of work and generally be happy in their work if they feel comfortable in the workplace environment.
How can I promote an inclusive workplace for my employees?
There are many ways businesses and employers can help reduce presenteeism and empower their employees.
The majority of businesses have lots of people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, sexualities, and gender identities. It is understandable that employers and HR teams can be very busy, suggesting it is easy to miss patterns and trends that show an employee is unhappy or not being their true self.
There are signs to look out for – it’s just the case of actually spotting them. For example:
- Is someone taking a lot of time off that could be related to avoiding work?
- Do your team members avoid coming into work or regularly calling in sick on the days they are supposed to be in?
- When having virtual calls is there a team member who always avoids being on camera?
It is often thought that a lack of visibility can reflect that someone is attempting to hide themselves from both their workplace and their colleagues.
New and improved technology can now play a part when trying to combat this particularly when it comes to absence. For example, real-time absence alters and also keeping an eye on absence and sickness trends, by doing this HR teams can identify issues before they become a problem.
It is also important to take notice of someone who usually avoids coming into work and rather than discipline them find out what the root cause of this is. Then you can acknowledge and help combat the problem rather than just assume they’re ‘lazy’. Doing this will show your employee that not only do you care but you value them as an employee. This will make them feel valued and will also encourage them to stay working for you rather than to look for alternative employment.
New and innovative ways of working
Since the pandemic, businesses have transformed the way they operate (e.g. flexible work, remote working, etc.). This now provides them with opportunities for their HR departments to implement new innovative ways of working and to foster an inclusive and safe environment for all employees. For example, HR teams should encourage employees to take absences or to recover from sickness.
It is also important to ensure equality, diversity, and inclusion are themes across the workplace and for employees to embrace their differences.
Remote work has provided employers and workers alike with an opportunity to review whether this is an issue for them.
By listening to employees and consulting with them about ways of working, engagement and productivity should improve.
Presenteeism can be an unseen cause of financial loss, lost opportunity and can lead to increased staff turnover. Taking steps to address it can have really positive results for employers.
How can Nelsons help?
For further information on the subjects discussed in this article or any related topics, please contact Laura or another member of the team in Derby, Leicester, or Nottingham on 0800 024 1976 or via our online form.Contact us