Most of us are guilty of burning the candle at both ends when weíre ill, heading into work regardless of how we feel to meet deadlines and keep on top of our to-do lists. But rather than being seen as a sign of dedication, itís becoming increasingly acknowledged that itís actually unhealthy for both employee and employer.

Going into work when youíre sick is called presenteeism. If you come in when youíre ill, you are likely to have reduced productivity and perform less well than you normally would. Youíre also more likely to make mistakes, spread infection to colleagues and make your condition worse which, in the long run, leads to needing more time off to recover.

Presenteeism isnít cheap. Findings by Bupa show that it costs UK employers £15.1 billion a year, almost double the cost of absenteeism.

Employees that do exhibit presenteeism are often doing so because they feel that it is their office culture to not take sick leave, despite their working rights.

As a HR department there are several steps you can take to ensure that you are positively tackling presenteeism in the workplace:

Recognise the causes

Busy periods, deadlines and heavy workloads can cause employees to come in to the office when they should be on sick leave. If there are impending deadlines or stressful situations, then ensure your staff feel supported by their line managers. Not only are they less likely to feel overwhelmed, but it can help with the management of cover if this needs to be arranged as managers will have a clearer understanding of employeeís workload.

Recognise the symptoms

Train your line managers to be alert when employees are unwell but still attending work so that they can encourage their line reports to take time to recuperate. This discouragement of presenteeism will help to create a caring culture which puts staff wellbeing first.

Reconsider your health and wellbeing policy

If you work in a stressful or high-pressure environment, then your health and wellbeing policy should take this into consideration. Perhaps you could offer staff an extra 10 minute break each day, or you encourage employees to go for a walk on their lunchbreak to destress. This will help to manage better health and wellbeing in the workplace which in turn will help to negate workplace illness such as stress.

Make your sickness policies well known

Once youíre sure that it is fair and considerate, make sure your employees know the deal. Itís important that your employees are aware of your sickness policy from the get-go and it might be worth reminding staff so that they donít forget they are supposed to take sick leave if theyíre ill.

Set a good example

If senior managers are seen to take time off when they are sick then their staff are more likely to follow suit. Encourage management to lead by example by taking time off if they are sick as this will help to change a presenteeism culture from the top down.

Presenteeism in the news

For more on staff wellbeing try our blogs on workplace burnout and incorporating exercise into the working day.

Want to find out more? Speak directly with an expert:

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