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Sick workers urged to stay home as UK productivity is threatened

More than half of British workers are coming to work unwell, increasing workplace sickness and compromising productivity, new figures show. New research by office solutions brand Fellowes report a rise in ‘presenteeism’ across the UK, as workers suffering from illnesses, aches, pains and other health problems come to the office instead of addressing and treating their ailments.

Concerns are growing that not enough long-term support is being offered to workers, with ‘quick-fixes’ being preferred over more preventative approaches to health worries. As more people come to work ill, the risk of spreading the illness increases, with a third of workers admitting they have considered moving jobs due to the negative impact of their work environment on their health – the highest percentage across Europe.

As well as risking other people’s health, coming to work instead of taking time to recover can prolong the illness, with employees opting for poor productivity instead of being encouraged to have time off. Affecting business-wide performance, Fellowes believes that companies aren’t being optimised due to lack of staff support.

“Our findings signal serious problems with how organisations are approaching wellbeing and productivity in the workplace,” said Louise Shipley, European business team manager at Fellowes. “They show a clear lack of awareness around the causes and effects of a presenteeism culture in the office.”

The main health risks that Brits face in the office are caused by not drinking enough water during the day, sitting too long, working without breaks and having poor posture while sitting at their desks. 58% of workers admit they would produce better quality work if more was done to support their health, while only 39% are aware of any health and wellbeing initiatives offered by bosses. While believing ergonomic products like footrests, back supports or sit-stand workstations could lead to a more motivated and engaged workforce.

“The tools are there for business leaders to tackle presenteeism and help to prevent the widespread workplace health issues that are dragging down productivity and work quality,” continued Shipley, who revealed that European businesses currently lose a massive £61.5 billion to workplace illness. “It’s time for leaders to take the reins and drive a potentially huge impact on their organisations.”