Many businesses recognise the importance of improving work health and safety to reduce injuries and disease. However, investing in work health and safety can also generate a positive return on investment through productivity gains and other benefits that often accompany safety improvements.
The increasing demands of modern life have eroded our standards of health and well-being, with competing stresses at both home and at work. The direct cost of poor health is reflected through workplace injury, illness, absenteeism and now presenteeism.
Just as people stay away from work for a variety of reasons, legitimate and otherwise; people also choose to come to work sick, distracted and/or disengaged for a whole new variety of reasons, such as economic, obligation to team, stress of not getting the job done, and even exuberance for the job.
Presenteeism emerged as a business issue in the 1990’s. It refers to the impact of an employee’s physical and emotional health and well-being and on-the-job performance.
Effects of presenteeism
Numerous studies have shown that worker health and well-being is closely linked to productivity, risk of injury and business costs. The main causes of presenteeism are unhealthy lifestyles, workers with illnesses going to work, allergies and asthma, poor work-life balance, and high levels of work related stress.
When comparing healthy and unhealthy workers, reports identified:
- The healthiest Australian employees were almost three times more productive than their unhealthy colleagues.
- Workers with medium to high health risks were three times more likely to file workers compensation claims.
Effects of presenteeism can be more harmful, costly and disruptive in the workplace than absenteeism. Research revealed the total cost of presenteeism to the Australian economy as being estimated at $34.1 billion; and recent studies indicated that up to 80% of the Australian workforce is disengaged.
The following three approaches can help prevent presenteeism developing in your workplace:
- Focus on culture and engagement – people are less likely to mentally check out of an environment that supports their life challenges and strives to engage them.
- Know your workers and exercise empathy – engage with your workers so you’ll be more aware if they are dealing with health or personal issues.
- Create a comprehensive workplace wellness program – these programs not only promote health and wellbeing as a lifestyle choice but also allow you to engage with your workers and learn about the benefits of creating a healthy workplace together.
Workplace Wellness in Australia Report by Medibank Health Solutions & PwC
Key Work Health and Safety Statistics, 2015 by Safe Work Australia
KPMG Econtech research