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5 ways to stamp out presenteeism in the workplace

Ever subconsciously find yourself favouring the early bird employee? Or the one that is always the last to log off at the end of the day? We can all agree that presenteeism in the workplace is counterproductive. In other words, what is the point of employees who show up just for the sake of it when they’re actually sick, stressed, or simply not in the frame of mind to work? Not only does it create a toxic work environment that values facetime over output, but it also costs the economy billions of pounds each year in lost productivity.

So why is presenteeism still valued? As a phenomenon that was on the rise pre-pandemic, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that 83% of employees said that presenteeism existed in their organization in 2019, while 25% said that the problem had gotten worse since the previous year. Contrary to what we’d expect, presenteeism hasn’t gone away during the pandemic either, where scores of employees found themselves working from home. In fact, employees are working longer than ever.

This Pacific Prime UK article tackles the presenteeism vs. productivity debate once and for all by giving you 5 ways to stamp out presenteeism in the workplace.

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1. Recognise your own biases that favour presenteeism-related attributes

Managers aren’t hell-bent on chaining employees to their desk, but are hardwired to favour presenteeism-related attributes. As such, the first step to stamp out presenteeism in the workplace is to recognise your own biases, as well as why and how they make you value presenteeism. This is typically the result of two psychological phenomena: ‘mere-exposure effect’ and ‘halo effect’ (explained below), but there may also be other reasons why you personally value facetime. Perhaps it stems from your own unhealthy relationship with work? Or tendency to micromanage your employees? It’s advisable to self-reflect on these matters.

Mere-exposure effect

The mere-exposure effect is a phenomenon by which people tend to develop a preference for others simply because they are more familiar with them. If you see a lot of an employee, you might have an affinity for them, and these are the employees that are able to quickly climb up the career ladder via promotions and raises.

Halo effect

The halo effect is a phenomenon whereby there’s a tendency for people’s good impressions of others in one area to positively influence their opinion or feelings in another area. You may think the employee that brings you coffee is also a productive and hard worker – even if there’s no evidence to back this up. Again, this can lead to such people being favoured at work.

2. Understand the negative impacts of presenteeism, and who it affects the most

It is crucial to understand ‘what is presenteeism’ and ‘what the impacts are’. But more crucially, it is to understand ‘who is most affected’. More often than not, it’s the employees that have the time to show up that benefit the most from the culture of presenteeism, while employees with children or those with caring duties lose out. As the pandemic has highlighted, the latter includes a large percentage of female employees. All in all, a culture of presenteeism means that:

  • Your employees may be more burnt out and stressed at your company, which will see productivity levels fall and operating costs rise;
  • Your employees may be driven to other organisations who truly value their contributions, which will see your turnover costs increase;
  • And more.

3. Commit to stamping out presenteeism, and practice what you preach

Did you know that 54% of UK workers felt obliged to come into the office at some point during the pandemic – despite the fact that officials recommended staying at home? This was particularly the case for those in their early to mid careers. For employees to stop valuing presenteeism over productivity, they need to see a commitment from their managers to uphold this way of working. Spell it out to employees what your expectations are, and tell them that there’s no need to stay logged on or at the office just for the sake of it. What’s more, encourage them to set boundaries at work. A good way to prove this is to practice what you preach.

4. Find alternative ways to measure employees’ performance and productivity

Tying into the previous point, you’ll also need more effective ways to measure employees’ performance and productivity. Start by understanding what your team is going to be working on in the following month/quarter, and establish your baseline expectations. Next, see who is meeting these expectations or even going above and beyond them. If it’s the employee that always leaves early or takes 2-hour long lunch breaks, then does it really matter? After all, forcing them to work long hours (or even contributing to a culture that demands it) for the sake of it may actually lower productivity.

5. Provide employee assistance programs (EAPs) and other wellbeing benefits

Another effective way to stamp out presenteeism is to ensure that employees’ are happy and healthy, including physical, mental, and emotional health. This can be done via employee benefits such as employee assistance programs (EAPs), which is a work-based intervention program designed to assist employees in resolving personal problems that may be adversely impacting their performance. In addition to this, group health insurance plans can also ensure that employees have immediate access to private healthcare (without the long wait times associated with the NHS) and resolve any health issue before it worsens.

Pacific Prime UK is your answer to all things employee benefits. Get in touch with us today!

As a corporate health insurance brokerage and employee benefits specialist, Pacific Prime UK has a number of resources for businesses, including our Global Employee Benefits Trends Report 2020 and Guide to Structuring Employee Benefits. We also have corporate advisors on hand who can take into account your organisation’s needs and budget, and help you design and implement tailored solutions that work for you – all backed by cutting-edge technology. To learn more about what we can do for you, you’re more than welcome to arrange a consultation with a member of our corporate team.

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