The red flags that falling absenteeism could be hiding

23 May 2019 By Advertising feature

Absenteeism is at its lowest rate ever, but is this masking unhealthy practices in organisations? Presenteeism and leavism have increased over the past year, and both have significant impacts on employee health and wellbeing

Absenteeism is at its lowest level since records began. Our recent research with the CIPD, published in April, revealed average absence is 5.9 days per employee per year; a significant decrease from the 6.6 days recorded in 2018. 

While this is positive news, could the fall in absenteeism be disguising some red flags? Two unhealthy practices in particular have increased in 2019. Presenteeism, when people come into work unwell, occurred in 83 per cent of organisations; the trend increasing for a quarter of respondents over the past year.

Leavism, a concept identified by Professor Sir Cary Cooper, is when people use their allocated time off to work, or if they are unwell, or work out of hours. In 2019, this increased too, with almost two-thirds seeing some form of leavism in their organisation.

These phenomena act as red flags for underlying issues. How often do you check emails on holiday, or log on at weekends? Or even come to the office with a cold? These are examples of unhealthy practices that negatively impact health and wellbeing.

Cultural influences could be to blame. If leaders don’t lead by example and come in to work unwell, it makes it acceptable for everyone to do it. This undoubtedly has effects on performance and it will take longer for employees to get better.

Similarly, an input-driven culture can lead to extra pressure on employees, meaning they have to work ‘out of hours’ to keep up. This too has impacts on wellbeing. Indeed heavy workloads were found to be the main cause of stress at work.

It’s crucial for organisations to look beyond absence to help improve employee wellbeing. To find out how companies are tackling presenteeism and leavism, download the CIPD/Simplyhealth Health and Well-being at Work 2019 report.

All figures are taken from the CIPD/Simplyhealth Health and Well-being at Work 2019 report.

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