Mental Health Training

Creating Value not Presenteeism, by Jane McNeice

Posted by on 17 May, 2021 in Mental Health |

Creating Value not Presenteeism, by Jane McNeice

With the significant increase last year in levels of home working, we might be mistaken in thinking that the wellbeing of the working population has improved alongside the greater flexibility afforded to many. Unfortunately, research, some of which has been undertaken by The Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development and other leading bodies, illustrates otherwise.


Presenteeism, a work-related phenomenon, reveals itself in employees working additional hours and extra endeavours to demonstrate they are present (albeit physically present though not necessarily mentally present). For example, attending work when unwell is illustrated to have risen in the last year. Add to this the concept of Leaveism, where employees take annual leave but continue to work or undertake work tasks while on leave, and we start to see patterns of behaviours that are unlikely to foster wellbeing and provide genuine added value to a business.


It is essential firstly to understand the driving forces that act as contributors to both Presenteeism and Leaveism. These include the threat of redundancy, the threat of punitive and over-zealous absence management practices, and unhealthy cultures such as the ‘always on’ culture. In the ‘always on’ culture, you need to demonstrate that you are always available and ready to work, either to avoid penalty or to receive positive benefits within the workplace. This culture is of course, further facilitated by the 24/7 accessibility that colleagues and managers have with one another via technology, that in many cases communicates to others we are ‘on-line’ even if we are not ‘on-line’ so to speak. Ultimately, many of these factors can be linked directly or indirectly to fear – fears of losing employment, personal fears about being ‘good enough’, and the broader driving forces that exist within today’s overly materialistic society for which income facilitates and drives further.


Presenteeism and Leaveism put significant pressure on individuals and add to the stress they experience. This pressure in and of itself contributes to a greater risk of ill health, whether that is mental ill health, physical, or in many cases, both. Translating this, the impact on businesses is poor productivity, poor quality of goods or services, mistakes, health and safety accidents, incidents, near misses, and many other costly factors. Individuals do not benefit, nor do businesses.


So how can we all benefit from the greater flexibility afforded by the pandemic that would never likely have occurred outside of it? Many academics, HR professionals, and legislators have been pushing for greater flexible working for years with little notable change. Here we are today with flexible working. now and possibly forever, yet something about it is not benefiting us all in the way we had hoped.


For those working from home not to feel the pressure to be ‘always on’ we need leaders and managers to demonstrate that they are not ‘always on’, to lead by example, and to manage and encourage healthy practices in those they support. Cultures of wellbeing need to be fostered where belief and recognition are given to the fact that we can do good business by being good, both to and for our beneficiaries and those we employ. Full commitment to employee wellbeing comes from the top, from CEOs who are fully committed, from shareholders and boards alike. The focus should be on the value that employees add to our businesses, not simply their presence. We may need to re-evaluate what we measure.

If you would like your leaders and managers to be clear on the benefits of reducing Presenteeism and to learn tools, techniques, and strategies to support healthy presence in your employees, please check out our Training Programme.