Presenteeism: Implications of Working whilst Unwell

Presenteeism can be defined 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’

For the majority of the working population waking up feeling unwell or having a cough or cold does not stop us from going in to work. Usually we are able to cope with the pressures of work and being slightly under the weather. However, battling through can sometimes cause symptoms to worsen and cause a delayed recovery period.

A survey carried out by Push Doctor – the digital health platform found that 88% of people do not feel comfortable calling into work when they are well. This can be due to concern over losing their job and being reliant financially on their pay. Presenteeism can cause a delay in recovery and long term affects. Unlike absenteeism, presenteeism is not always apparent. It is obvious when someone does not come into work due to poor health – however for employers it is unclear when their employees do come to work with a medical condition.

‘Sickness’ can be difficult for employers to manage. 24% of employers surveyed felt pressure from managers to come into work. Further to this employees feel they need ‘evidence’ to prove that they are sick, for example a note from the doctor. However within the UK it is often difficult to get a same day appointment with a GP. For employees you want high levels of attendance, high moral, high productivity and ultimate high profits however employers also need to be able to nature employee’s health and wellbeing and on occasions accept an employee is unfit to work.

When this is the case, most companies are able to accommodate and plan for employee sickness. Often they could have in place medical insurance to help with the recovery period for the employee or group risk which can protect both the company and the employees in uncertain, difficult financial times.

Further to this working with a medical condition can cause seriously health and safety implications to the sick employee. For example working with a migraine can seriously reduce productivity and can increase mental stress. Depression can cause fatigue and irritability. Arthritis can cause pain and reduced mobility. There is also the potential issue of contamination amongst colleges, as well as more serious risks to any pregnant employees.

In 2015, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that depression cost employers $35 billion and pain related conditions such as arthritis, headaches and back problems cost business $47 billion. The director for Health Research & Rural Advocacy at Geisinger Health System in Danville, Pennsylvania Walter Steward stated that “Pain, no matter what the cause, will always translate into lost time at work,”

Contrary to presenteeism and the implications of attending work whilst sick – is that work can be sourced as part of the healing process. Often employees who have suffered from a serious illness want to return to work, however daunting it maybe, to try and obtain some normality back to their life. An employee assistance programme can provide counselling and assessment to an employee and their family as well as action that an employer can take on a specific situation.

Employees who have been off work for a long period of time could be offered flexible work. Often it can help the ‘sick’ employee to focus on normality and therefore reduce continuous concern about their illness.

BDHL offers a broad range of methods to provide employee benefits to improve your employees’ situations and offer them the peace of mind that their employers are looking out for them. Group private medical insurance provides the means to protect employees, and your business, against costs incurred or productivity lost in health related issues – and BDHL’s service for group risk insurance can take protection one step further.

If you’re interested in offering health benefits to your employees then get in touch with BDHL now and we can talk you through the various options available that could be suitable for your business. Call us on +44 (0)1892 891 900, or use the contact form on this page to send us your enquiry.