So how’s business? Employees all present? Managing absences well? What if having ‘all present and correct’ was actually costing you money and lowering productivity?  If so it could be that “Presenteeism” is damaging your team and it needs to be addressed before it causes any long term damage, but don’t worry there are solutions.

What is Presenteeism?

Presenteeism most commonly describes the issue of employees coming into work while not physically or mentally well, instead of taking time out to recover. This may also include employees who are disengaged, discouraged, or feel undervalued in their job, so are not fully “present” in their day-to-day work.

Signs of presenteeism can include:

                    • Making more mistakes than usual

                   • Producing work of a low standard

                    • Low productivity

                    • Lack of care about results

                    • Arriving late/leaving early

                    • Conversely, missing lunch breaks/working long hours

                    • Working whilst sick

                    • Looking tired/exhausted

There is mounting research evidence that absence management policies geared at penalising staff for taking time off for being ill actually reduce productivity.  Presenteeism can do more harm to your business than encouraging better self- awareness of wellbeing.

Why is it a problem?

Presenteeism can have a detrimental impact on the quality and volume of work produced, and so can actually become more expensive for a business than sickness absence, reduced hours or other occupational health-related costs.

Presenteeism is now recognised as one of the biggest threats to UK productivity, and should be the main priority for organisations that want to look after their staff wellbeing.  In a survey conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) in 2018, 72 percent of organisations that responded admitted an issue with presenteeism over the past 12 months, and a further 29 percent had seen an increase in the issue.

We are significantly less productive when we are feeling unwell.   We may also be a hazard to others, either by passing on the illness to our colleagues, or by increased chance of errors due to lack of focus or concentration, all of which could reduce productivity. Those who are disengaged are more likely to be careless with their job role, make more mistakes, and their lower morale can be contagious. Therefore presenteeism can have a significant detrimental impact on the quality and volume of work produced,  so can actually become more expensive for a business than sickness absence, reduced hours or other occupational health-related costs.

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How can it be overcome?

 Many organisations have found that enabling a more flexible working culture, with breaks for taking exercise and dealing with health concerns, is beneficial to profits and productivity.  It also reduces staff turnover, thus saving on recruitment and training costs. Which in turn protects against team disruption, overload and the loss of knowledge and experience when long serving and highly trained staff leave.

In a recent “Engagement, Workplace Culture & Wellbeing” survey conducted for the Mad World summit sent to a range of large, small and medium sized organisations in the private, public and voluntary sectors, they found that only 42% of respondents are measuring the effectiveness of mental health and wellbeing strategies, more than 57% are not doing this at all.

So how can businesses in challenging economic climate make sure that any investment in wellbeing programmes is being targeted most effectively?


A case study


At the Safety and Health Expo #SHE19 we heard about a brilliant project which proved that high returns on investment (ROI) can be achieved by shifting the employee investment focus. As we love sharing best practice here at WSAW we contacted the report author from Rener Wellbeing to find out more:

Rener Wellbeing worked with a company called SHIFT8 to develop a bespoke wellbeing strategy across all their offices in the UK and Ireland.  SHIFT8 are a rapidly expanding company making hi-tech products using light, sound and animation to stimulate patients with dementia and other disabilities and improve physical and social activity. 

With a focus on co-creation and raising awareness of well-being needs at all levels of the workforce, Rener Wellbeing developed a strategy building on the company’s existing practices of flexible working , which included encouraging lunchtime exercise, and optional home working. The consultancy widened the focus to also include consideration of mental health, nutrition and sleep.

They also encouraged the client to formalise their existing flexible working practices, which empowered staff to use them without the guilt or worry about taking time out for their self-care practices, and wellbeing champions were appointed to help embed the practices into the workplace culture.

The results?

The company reported an eradication of presenteeism and a doubling of sales with a calculated ROI of 1:250! Not a bad way to improve your company performance and develop your workforce.


To read the full report see


How has your company tackled presenteeism? Have you made changes to your approach to wellbeing management to make you a more attractive employer? As always, if you would like to share your good news stories please contact us and we will shout it from the rooftops as we love paying it forward to help more businesses work safe and well!