Working when sick is rising and harms you and your employer. This is why

sickness 19

(Brittany Colette, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Douglas Broom, Senior Writer, Formative Content


If you’ve been ill enough to call in sick, but felt pressure to turn up at work, you’re not alone. Working when you’re physically or mentally unwell is called presenteeism – and it’s becoming more common.

As many as 83% of employees said they’d seen it in their workplace in the past 12 months, according to a survey of health and wellbeing at work by the UK’s Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. In 2010, only 24% had experienced presenteeism.

At the same time, the number of UK employees taking sick leave has fallen to an all-time low of 5.9 days per person per year. Almost two-thirds of employees told the CIPD that they worked during their holidays or when on sick leave.

Image: CIPD

More harmful than absence

A quarter of employees believe presenteeism is getting worse. The CIPD says it’s potentially more harmful for individuals and companies than sickness absence. And it warns that employee wellbeing needs to be taken more seriously by business leaders.

The costs to business are well documented. It has been estimated presenteeism costs US firms $226 billion a year. In Japan, the cost of reduced performance due to working while unwell was $3,055 per employee each year. In the UK, ‘impaired work efficiency’ due to mental ill health costs $790 per person each year, twice the cost of absenteeism.

But few companies are doing anything about it, with just under a third of those surveyed taking any action. Only 30% of those tried to investigate the cause of presenteeism.

Image: CIPD

Only a third of people believed that their leaders encouraged mental wellbeing through their actions and behaviour, while more than two-fifths said management style was a cause of stress – up from a third in 2018.

“Employers can introduce a suite of exemplary wellbeing policies and make a serious investment in employee health, but if their activity is not rooted in how people are managed, it will not have a real impact,” says the CIPD.

A bad example

Research by the UK Institute of Employment Studies found that business culture is a major cause of presenteeism. Employees who know that being absent would make more work for colleagues, for example teachers and nurses, are most likely to work while unwell.

Managers who set a bad example by working when sick encourage similar behaviour in their teams. Job insecurity for staff on fixed-term contracts or in firms facing restructuring is a factor, especially when bosses regard attendance as a sign of commitment.

Policies designed to reduce absenteeism could lead to more illness in the workplace and lower productivity. Reducing sickness benefits results in people going to work when they would previously have reported sick.

Health insurer Vitality says health-related lost productivity is costing the UK economy more than $100 billion (£77.5 billion) a year which, it argues, could be reduced significantly if companies invested in adequate health and wellbeing programmes for their employees.

Image: CIPD

 

Accessing benefits

Vitality’s annual Healthiest Workplace survey found that 40% of staff said health problems had affected their work in the past year. UK employees lost an average of 35.6 days of productive time due to ill health and more than 90% of that time was due to presenteeism. Productivity loss was higher among lower-income and younger workers.

Although women have better health indicators than men, being less prone to high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol, they lost more working hours to ill health. Depression was almost twice as prevalent among female workers over the age of 60 than men of the same age.

Getting workers to use wellbeing benefits is a problem for some employers. Companies in the Vitality survey provided an average of 20 health and wellbeing measures for staff, including fresh fruit and clinical screening. But only just over a quarter of employees were aware they were available.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

CDNIFY @ TheNextWeb 2014

Is technology key to improving global health and education, or just an expensive distraction?

‘Answer the call of Afghans’ to reduce impact of conflict, UN urges all parties amid increase in civilian airstrike deaths

Parliaments can be pillars of democracy and defenders of human rights, says UN chief on International Day

Why the oil industry has less time to decarbonize than it might think

Policymakers can ensure the 4IR is fairer than the last three

The world’s e-waste is a huge problem. It’s also a golden opportunity

Ditching plastic straws isn’t enough. Here’s how to achieve zero waste.

What are we actually working for?

Implementation of EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey: EU mobilises €663 million in humanitarian assistance

Pharmaceuticals in the environment: Commission defines actions to address risks and challenges

This billion-dollar campaign wants to protect 30% of the planet by 2030

EU-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement sees the light as Moscow’s reaction once more looms

New rules for temporary border controls within the Schengen area

UN chief hails Libyan leaders’ agreement to hold general election

This is how the US energy market is shifting

Writing a new story in gender inequalities: women gaining space and respect in medicine

Consumers are getting more complex. Brands need to keep up to survive

UN chief calls for ‘immediate end’ to escalation of fighting in southwestern Syria, as thousands are displaced

This new programme could hold the key to solving global health challenges

We should treat data as a natural resource. Here’s why

Interview with ourselves: the mental health of health professionals

How water scarcity triggers the refugee crisis – and what tech can do to solve it

A Sting Exclusive: China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi on South China Sea issue at the ASEAN Regional Forum

Commission Statement on the decision by the Swiss Federal Council to terminate the negotiations of the EU-Swiss Institutional Framework Agreement

Jellyfish are taking over the world – and climate change could be to blame

From Policy to Reality: Discrepancies in Universal Health Care Systems across the European Union

How regenerative agroforestry could solve the climate crisis

UN chief pays tribute to the courage of DR Congo citizens, and the sacrifice of blue helmets

Asia and Pacific on course to miss all Sustainable Development Goals, says UN region chief

New Syria fighting represents ‘giant powder keg’, warns aid veteran, as he leaves UN stage

Forget about growth without a level playing field for all SMEs

EU Ombudsman investigates the European Commission

Can elections in Italy and Germany derail Eurozone?

EU/African, Caribbean and Pacific partnership: MEPs list key aims for renewal

Multiprofessional action against the indiscriminate use of antibiotics

To recruit younger people, you have to understand them. Here’s a guide

This company recycles gold from electronic waste

New report says better metrics could have prompted stronger response to the crisis

Scotland “shows the way” to separatist movements as Catalonia calls a vote on independence

Want a sustainable business? Hire in talent

Hydrogen isn’t the fuel of the future. It’s already here

Reducing deforestation means getting serious about environmental crime

Here’s what a Korean boy band can teach us about globalization 4.0

EU-U.S Joint statement on the humanitarian emergency in Tigray

Why Eurozone needs a bit more inflation

Minority governments ‘à la mode’ in Europe but can they last long?

Vestager vs. Google: a fight to ensure a competitive innovation framework

The increasing drug prices in Europe

5 things we can do in 2021 that will protect the ocean and change lives

Commission Work Programme 2019: Delivering on promises and preparing for the future

Minsk “ceasefire” leaves more doubts than safety, with EU already planning steps further

The best and worst parenting advice I’ve heard, by a leading psychologist

Coldplay stop touring to save the world: is pop music going sustainable?

EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey: third annual report shows continued vital and tangible support for refugees and their host communities

UN emissions report: World on course for more than 3 degree spike, even if climate commitments are met

How do we design an inclusive energy transition?

New European Bauhaus: Commission launches design phase

Are vaccines enough? To end COVID-19 we need more innovation – and more access

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: