Presenteeism threatens UK businesses

Louise Shipley heads up the European Workspace Management category for Fellowes Brands. A passionate advocate of healthy working, she has managed the ergonomics desk accessory category for Fellowes across Europe for 15 years. Over that time, she has seen the office workspace evolve at an accelerating rate, most recently with the introduction of the active working phenomenon. She has a natural curiosity for corporate and employee behaviour relating to healthy working. A qualified DSE assessor, Louise works with a number of thought leaders across many disciplines adjacent to healthy working to ensure that the latest trends are being addressed.

Here Louise tells us why presenteeism is threatening UK businesses.

  1. Why is presenteeism so dangerous for businesses in the UK?

Rising employee sick leave, the subsequent negative impact on performance and loss of productivity cost European businesses an estimated mind-boggling €73 billion in 2015. This comes as no surprise with Fellowes’ recent research showing that 1 in 3 European workers took an average of two weeks off work due to ailments caused by working at a desk or computer.

An employee that is present but not fully-functioning poses a greater risk to business, as a hidden cost – which if left unaddressed can be more financially damaging than having absent employees. Working whilst sick or with diminished engagement leads to lowered productivity, and a decrease in the quality of work. Employers therefore simply cannot afford to ignore this issue as it is costing their business at the bottom-line in terms of prolonging inevitable sick-days and reducing overall employee performance.

  1. How are workplace wellness initiatives helping to solve the productivity puzzle?

A company that promotes health and wellbeing in the workplace generally benefits from happier, healthier, engaged and more productive employees. With active working initiatives specifically, physical activity can reduce and even importantly avoid the onset of stress symptoms, physical ailments, and reinforce all-round wellbeing. 34% of UK employees have considered moving jobs due to their work environment having an impact on their health and 51% believe they would feel more motivated and engaged if they had a Sit-Stand workstation, highlighting the importance to futureproof the office of today.  Wellness in the workplace delivers great business return as productive employees will ultimately boost operational performance and profitability, this in turn further strengthens competitive advantage in terms of attracting and retaining talent.

  1. What steps can UK employers take to ensure their employees be more engaged at work, and they retain talent?

With 60% of senior managers, including HR, saying they have seen good people leave their company because of a poor work environment, it’s clear that looking after employee wellbeing is a differentiating factor when it comes to attracting top talent. Companies therefore need to ensure the benefits and environment they offer are competitive, to create a happy, motivated and productive workforce.

Whilst employees are primarily responsible for taking care of their own health, as an employer you can provide them with the right working conditions to support them and improve the chances of good working habits forming. Introducing incremental steps such as wellbeing days, competitions to celebrate the most active office-worker and getting your employees to think about how small changes in their daily routines can help deliver long-term positive results. Encourage your staff to get moving, to take breaks from sitting at their desk, book meetings in another part of the building and to talk to co-workers rather than the only communicating via email or phone.

Employees also need to see a proactive, long-term and preventative approach to workplace health in order to feel truly motivated to do the best job possible. Sit-Stand Workstations provide a permanent solution, helping combat health issues in the workplace, by reducing the sedentary behaviour associated with sitting at a desk through encouraging staff to keep moving – alternating between sitting and standing while working, without interrupting productivity and even increasing focus and energy levels! In Scandinavian countries such as Denmark and Sweden, 88% of office workers are already using Sit-Stand desks as a measure of good working practice and feeling the benefits, which means it’s only a matter of time before companies in other European countries follow suit to this extent. The time for UK business to act is now!