Monday 4th April
It is now widely accepted within the UK that Covid-19 has resulted in an unprecedented shift in the way we work.
Even the most traditional organisations and leaders have been forced to embrace remote working, seeing the impacts it can have on their businesses, largely positive.
But why have organisations not always promoted remote working? Trust. Historically the view has been that those within an office setting will work harder given the visibility of their work, whilst remote workers largely lounge on the sofa with a laptop by their side.
These attitudes contributed significantly to the rise in presenteeism within traditional settings. Employees felt obliged to get in early and stay as late as the boss, despite working hours, believing that such behaviours were a judgeable metric.
The term “presenteeism” refers to the phenomenon of employees coming into work, despite being physically and/or psychologically unwell or injured. They’re less motivated and less productive, being present only in terms of their body. Presenteeism is estimated to cost the UK economy £15.1billion every year, making it nearly double the cost of absenteeism (Work Mind, 2019).
Luckily, a shift to remote working has changed this, right? Wrong.
The work from home stigmas discussed earlier are a key factor in driving presenteeism, with almost half (46%) of UK employees feeling the need to combat the perception that working from home is less productive than being in the office (HR Magazine, 2018). Added to this is a blurring of work and home because of COVID-19, with excess workloads and fear of redundancies driving presenteeism further.
So, does working from home offer up much new value, or are we in fact fostering an emergence of a new e-presenteeism? Research is already flooding in to suggest that people have swapped the 2-hour commute for an extra 2 hours work, with Executive Grapevine reporting last year that remote workers are working, on average, an extra 28 hours per month.
Whilst there are undoubted benefits from working at home: increased family time, no commute, home-made lunches and more time to do things after work, employees and employers need to be aware of the negatives associated with e-presenteeism. The miracle technology platforms keeping us all connected, also invariably mean that people can be plugged into work 24/7.
Personal, professional, and financial insecurities mean that many employees are overly present, even when they are unwell, to demonstrate their value/worth. With remote working set to become more permanent within many organisations, now is the time to address e-presenteeism, which will become more engrained without proactive interventions.
The nature of presenteeism makes it very difficult to ‘symptomise’, however there are key traits to be aware of.
Research from the Centre for Mental Health forecasts COVID-19 could be responsible for an additional 500,000 people experiencing mental health difficulties over the coming year. The British Medical Association found that 44% of workers described experiencing anxiety, depression, stress, burnout, or other mental health conditions ‘relating to or made worse by their work’. In principle, coronavirus has made being productive harder, hence it takes longer to complete the same amount of work.
Therefore, managers having the ability to spot the signs and symptoms of common Mental Health conditions could be a good place to start. Courses such as Mental Health Awareness would enable management pro-activity in supporting employees experiencing the effects of presenteeism, ultimately addressing reduced productivity. We should all invest to save.
Alternatively, look out for behaviours associated to over-working or working whilst unwell: Low morale, visible illness, demotivation, working early/late, low productivity and reduced quality of work.
Undoubtedly, combatting a trend of such significance requires a pro-active preventative approach to wellbeing within an organisation.
1. Promote Mental Wellbeing
At IPRS Health we have developed dedicated online training packages for our staff to enable them to build greater resilience and promote open discussion around their mental and physical wellbeing. They also have access to our wellbeing platform myIPRShealth.com, which contains vlogs/blogs and self-help materials to combat negative physical/mental health trends.
2. Promote Culture Change and Communication
We have also created a non-linear communication system between senior leaders and employees to further foster open communication between employees and provide business updates. A lack of feedback from leaders makes it challenging for employees to benchmark progress, which can lead to increased anxiety and performance concerns.
This platform also enables IPRS to actively promote an open culture, one which truly understands and prioritises the importance of switching off, where employees feel comfortable logging out for the day and don’t feel the need to even check their emails... let alone reply. This culture starts at the top!
3. Promote True Flexibility
Encourage employees to do the things that are associated to benefits of home-working, rather than avoid them to appear more productive: Have virtual coffee breaks, share home-lunch photos, enjoy an extra hour in bed when you would have been on the train or go for a walk with the kids whilst the sun is still out.
A whole day off work won’t be necessary for all employees, instead a slight pattern shift may be preferred. Flexible working, not just 9-5 from home, is a great combat for presenteeism as it enables employees to optimise productivity around home requirements, ultimately reducing stress and supporting wellbeing.
Let us know what your organisation is doing to combat presenteeism. In the current climate, it is increasingly important for everyone to share best practice around supporting employees. Please comment on this post or get in touch with one of the IPRS team to discuss!« Back to News & Blog