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How to nip ‘presenteeism’ in the bud to avoid rising absenteeism in 2022

New research from Canada Life has revealed that a third (35%) of UK adults have continued to work while feeling unwell in the past 18 months, rising to almost half (46%) among those aged 18-34 years.

They also found that almost one-third (32%) of those working from home felt more pressure regarding presenteeism – where employees work despite being ill.

The reasons behind people working whilst ill is half thought the illness was not serious enough to take time off for, 27% said their workload was too high and almost a quarter (24%) were worried about the financial implications of taking sick leave.

Reacting to this issue, Adrian Lewis, Commercial Director at Activ People HR is warning employers to be on the lookout for ‘presenteeism’ so that this doesn’t translate into rising absenteeism.

He said: “The pandemic has changed the world of work and many people are still working remotely. This can make working whilst ill more common as people think as they are at home they should just plough on. With the end of furlough and some firms laying workers off they can also be fearful of their jobs or experiencing pressure from increased workloads so feel they can’t take time off.

“Working whilst unwell is never a good idea as people can become sicker and take more time off in the end. It can be a vicious circle, but it’s important employers understand why people aren’t taking time off when they need to and to address any issues that may exist in their workplace culture.

“One solution is to invest in absence management software that can help organisations spot trends such as someone not taking all their annual leave or taking more time off than usual sick – both of which can signal something is wrong. Having the right systems in place adds transparency and help companies understand their employees’ behaviour.

“This software also encourages employers to undertake back to work interviews after they’ve been off sick, even if these have to be done remotely if people are working at home. These are vital as they offer the opportunity to find out what has been wrong and for employees to discuss any concerns they have confidentially.

“These conversations can reveal if someone has worked whilst ill before finally taking time off prompting questions as to why they felt they needed to do this. Having visibility over what is going on in the workforce can enable employers to make sure they are promoting the right culture where people feel able to have time off if needed and that they will have the support of their employer.

“Neither presenteeism nor absenteeism is good for business and can impact productivity, so tackling them both in 2022 is essential; especially as firms try to recover after Covid.”