In a recent article on the Guardian Online Professor Gary Johns highlights the fact presenteeism is a much worse problem than absenteeism. He says, "There is considerable agreement across studies that presenteeism accounts for more aggregate productivity loss than absenteeism."
I agree with Professor Gary Johns. Yes, we need to reduce sickness absence but if staff are simply coming into work to show their face then the numbers are deceiving. Whilst on the face of it there maybe a reduction is sickness absence productivity may not have improved, in fact it could have got worse. And it is this that we need to be focusing on because it is quality and high productivity that will create a successful business not an extra person sitting at a desk.
This is not to say stop monitoring sickness absence but as employers we also need to be proactive in our approach to employee wellbeing, offering a range of initiatives to educate staff and really help them improve their health and energy. This is what will ultimately lead to staff performing at their best and increased productivity.
So it is simple really – a healthy energised workforce results in improved productivity and reduced absence. And it is the organisations that get this and are being proactive in their approach to employee wellbeing that will succeed. They are the innovators that are investing in the health and energy of their staff, making employee wellbeing part of their organisational culture, and in turn creating a much more resilient workforce.
Healthy staff = healthy profits
The business case for employee wellbeing should be simple. But some argue that business leaders cannot possibly justify wellbeing related initiatives when they are making cut backs.
When an employer asked Lucy Kellaway, from the Financial Times, whether they should keep their subsidised staff canteen her answer was simple – yes. But it wasn’t so straightforward when it came to the gym membership.
She explains the benefits that a staff canteen has on a business in terms of bringing people together. But what about the other benefits associated with it?
A staff canteen not only brings people together but it means organisations can help staff achieve a balanced diet and maintain high energy. It is this that will improve performance.
Then there is the gym membership that Kellaway dismisses. It’s true that some people will value this more than others but it’s all about educating employees and giving them the tools to improve the health and energy – achieve this and productivity will improve.
So when we are asked should wellbeing initiatives be slashed during difficult economic times? In my world the answer is simple – no.
We know from our work with some of the top UK brands that a healthy workforce results in improved productivity and reduced absence. It is the forward thinking organisations, like eBay and Google, that are being proactive in their approach to employee wellbeing that will succeed.
These organisations are the innovators that are making efforts to help their staff improve their health and energy, making employee wellbeing part of their organisational culture, and in turn creating a much more resilient workforce.