Presenteeism and how it affects employees. What Employers need to know

Iceberg above and below water level

What is Presenteeism?

Presenteeism is when staff are at work but not able to perform to their usual standard due to poor mental health.

Compared with absenteeism (when staff are off sick) presenteeism sees employees struggle into work and do their best despite their current difficulties.

Employers generally encourage this strong commitment to work. After all it’s better to have someone at their desk than not at all, right?

However, new research has broken down the costs of poor mental health to employers and has found some astonishing results. (2017 Stevenson and Farmer review: thriving at work)

It showed that absenteeism from poor mental health cost the UK economy a whopping £8 billion and yet presenteeism doubles this at £17 – £26 billion.

Hands holding picture of the world and coins with red downward arrow

Like the analogy of the iceberg, absenteeism represents what you can see on the surface. But presenteeism is largely hidden under the water.

Where do the costs come from?

It’s easy to see where the cost comes from with absenteeism. Staff away from their desks equals an entire day’s productivity lost.

And especially with mental health, staff are unlikely to be away for just one day – it’s more like weeks and months.

Then there is the HR time and recourses required to manage an employee’s sickness with letters and meeting etc. So you can see how the costs stack up.

But what about presenteeism? The ‘Time to Change’ campaign completed a study called ‘Creating mentally health workplaces: what employees say’ and conducted surveys across a variety of workplaces.

It found a staggering 82% were or had experienced poor mental health and 89% said they had gone into work when experiencing poor mental health.

Employees then shared what impact this had on their abilities at work and included:

  • Finding it difficult to concentrate
  • More likely to get into conflicts with colleagues
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Difficulty with juggling a number of tasks
  • Takes longer to complete tasks
  • Put off challenging work
  • Rely more on other colleagues to get work done
  • Less patients with customers/colleagues
  • Finding it difficult to learn new tasks
Businesspeople arguing in meeting

The truth about mental health

Reading this list could make for uncomfortable reading. Haven’t we all done most of those things? Found it difficult to concentrate in a meeting, put off the more challenging tasks, maybe snapped at a colleague? Does that mean we have some sort of underlying undiagnosed mental health condition? No. So why is this classed as poor mental health?

Think about your physical health.

We all have physical bodies and therefore all have physical health. Sometime we are in tip top shape, other times we have a bit of a cold and on rare occasions we might find ourselves in hospital diagnosed with a chest infection.

Woman sneezing

Regardless, we all have physical health and must look after our bodies. Mental health is no different.

We all have minds and therefore all have mental health.  Sometime we are in tip top shape, other times we’ve been struggling to sleep from stress and for some we might find ourselves in hospital diagnosed with depression.

Stressed out Businessman

As with physical health, mental health fluctuates throughout the course of our lives. We are constantly told how to keep our bodies in good condition; don’t smoke, don’t drink too much alcohol and exercise. But not often are we told how to keep ourselves mentally healthy.

So it’s not surprising 82% are, or have, experienced poor mental health at work.

Mental health at work – the costs.

Poor mental health in the private sector costs on average £1,119 – £1,481 per employee per year. And in the public sector comes in at £1,551 – £1,877 per employee per year.

Industries such as finance, insurance and real estate see the biggest losses at £2,014 – £2,564 per employee per year. Taking the lower figure for a company which has 40 employees can see an annual loss of £80,560.

There is a clear rationale of investing in the mental health of your employees.

The next article/blog from Intrinsic Occupational Therapy will be all about how Occupational Therapy helps your staff look after and maintain their mental health. So they are healthier and happier at work and your business can regain its productivity and recoup some of those losses.

If you’d like to talk to us about how Intrinsic OT can help you, contact us today.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *