Presenteeism problem in spotlight on Workplace Wellbeing Day

Half of workers consider leaving employers who fail to support their wellbeing...

Presenteeism problem in spotlight on Workplace Wellbeing Day

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Employers across the country are being encouraged to get involved in Ireland's National Workplace Wellbeing Day today.

An initiative launched by Food Drink Ireland three years ago, it is continuing to emphasise the knock-on benefits for businesses if they make a concerted effort to ensure their workers are happy and healthy.

A 'Behaviour & Attitudes' study from the Nutrition & Health Foundation found that seven in 10 employees are likely to stay longer term with employers interested in their wellbeing. On the flipside, half of respondents said they would consider leaving employers who fail to support their wellbeing.

For those who continue in the job, the counterintuitively connected issues of absenteeism and presenteeism continue to pose a problem.

Dermot Doherty, health strategy manager with Food Drink Ireland, said of the latter:

"Employees are in work and they're obviously suffering through either mental or physical anguish and they're not in a capacity to work at their best or they're not in their best frame of mind."


An ‘Overhauling a culture of presenteeism at work’ study conducted by YouGov on behalf of Ricoh Ireland revealed last year that more and more workers are extending their working days because they think that it will help them to progress in their careers if they are perceived as 'hard workers'.

Four in five Irish professionals were found to have faked their workloads by staying late in the office beyond their contracted hours, with 37% stay late regularly just to appear to be working hard.

Over one-third (36%) of respondents said they felt under pressure to stay late in the office because they see their colleagues staying on.

Gary Hopwood, general manager of Ricoh Ireland, said:

"We were astonished to learn that 80% of professionals have felt the need to fake their workload to get ahead in their careers. It seems that Irish professionals believe the key to impressing management is staying late in the office, rather than producing the best results.

"These outdated work practices are holding many professionals back and could also be hindering business growth. Employees should not have to fear being punished for not being physically at their desk for 40 hours a week."

He continued:

"The digital age is more fluid than the rigid, outdated practice of presenteeism.

"Employers need to embrace flexible working practices for employees in a transparent, collaborative way with proper guidance from the Irish government. We need to put platforms in place which support flexible working so that both the employer and the employee can progress and thrive."

The role of employers

Turning to what employers can do specifically, Dermot Doherty pointed to promoting better exercise and nutrition in the workplace:

"Things like walking clubs, sports and social clubs, things can improve morale, things that can improve mental health."

Dr Muireann Cullen of the Nutrition & Health Foundation noted the positive response of employers last year:

“Our study shows that about half of employers are trying to facilitate healthier lifestyles for their employees."

Small Firms Association director Patricia Callan has said:

“Over four million days are lost in Ireland due to absenteeism by small businesses alone. As this research shows, employers of all sizes and from all sectors are doing a lot already. But employers should do more to promote these initiatives and encourage staff to get involved.”

Returning to the 'Behaviour & Attitudes' study, four out of five employees point to a positive link between their health and wellbeing and their company‘s productivity. Two in five, meanwhile, claim that sickness and absenteeism are a barrier to productivity within their workplace.

Employee health and wellbeing programmes were also an issue for those employers intending to recruit during 2016. More than a third of employees (35%) surveyed said that a company’s workplace wellbeing programme is important when they are choosing a new employer.

Additional reporting by Nicole Gernon