Presenteeism our biggest bad habit as 83 per cent admit working when ill

UK workplaces are rife with presenteeism, fuelled by a potent combination of soaring stress and poor managers who are not trained to spot warning signs in staff.

The findings are in CIPD and Simply Health’s survey of 1,078 professionals which found 83 per cent of firms say they observed colleagues go to work when ill – known as presenteeism – in their organisation. A quarter say the problem has got worse since the previous year.

83 per cent of respondents to CIPD’s annual survey said they had observed colleagues go to work when ill. Photograph: iStock

CIPD said the ‘disturbing’ findings undermine the fact that this year also has the lowest number of average sick days (5.9 per employee per year) in 19 years of issuing the report because the number is coupled with productivity and health issues.

CIPD says managers are not being given the tools to tackle presenteeism and they are also contributing the issue of stress, which is also on the rise. Heavy workload (62 per cent) was the top cause of stress-related absence and the second biggest contributing factor is management style, which has risen from 32 per cent to 43 per cent in the last year.

Rachel Suff, CIPD’s senior employment relations adviser, said: “Managers should be helping to alleviate stress among their staff, not contributing to it. But too many managers are being set up to fail because they haven’t received adequate training, despite them often being the first person employees will turn to when they have a problem.

“Rates of presenteeism and leaveism, which are both linked to stress, remain stubbornly high. Employers have a responsibility to tackle these bad habits. They must also realise that staff are not going to perform at their best if they are working when ill or using up holiday to work rather than recharge.”

CIPD is calling for senior leaders to prioritise wellness at work and for companies to train managers so they are competent to support staff.

The survey covered 3.2 million employees across the UK. It applies to the 12 months prior to November 2018, when the survey was completed.

CIPD Health and wellbeing at work - read the report here