/prɛznˈtiːɪzəm/ – lost productivity that occurs when employees are not fully functioning in the workplace because of an illness, injury, or other condition
/abs(ə)nˈtiːɪz(ə)m/ – habitual non-presence of an employee at his or her job
Many believe that the problem with staffing issues from a mental health perspective are about Absenteeism – employees staying at home, not coming to work. In reality, the biggest impact on our productivity is from Presenteeism – employees turning up to work but not functioning effectively.
Presenteeism has had a big impact since COVID. Many people who have been stressed or impacted by changes in their home life feel as if they can’t return to the work environment. Whilst Australia has not had such a significant experience of COVID-19 as other parts of the world, the sudden change of autonomy resulting in an inability to make plans, or catch up with friends and family, can really start to increase our levels of anxiety and result in ongoing feelings of low mood.
People are tired! They’re turning up to work, but they are not effectively engaging. They’re not focussed, cannot stay on task and are not churning out the level of work that they were capable of doing before.
It is the Presenteeism that is our biggest concern.
I try and encourage organisations to focus on their ability to engage their employees in understanding mental fitness. We need to build our capability to be able to weather the varying storms and challenges that life throws at us. If we talk about challenges more openly, we expect that people are going to be more open about their mental health, this bodes much better for a positive work environment.
Whether you have a small business or run a large organisation, if you don’t address the issues of people’s mental health, in addition to their physical health, then you are losing an opportunity to help people work more effectively.
The best way we can do that is by making it okay to talk openly about life’s challenges. It isn’t possible to separate our work and home lives altogether. If we are extremely stressed at home then that is going to show in the work we are able to put out. When we have an employer who is understanding of the fact that life is going to throw everyone curve balls, then we are given the space to be able to recover.
Recovering at work is always better than employees being off work. Recognising that presenteeism in those situations is very real, but understood, will help them get back to their best self as fast as they can. The culture is set by the attitude that is present when they are being affected by these issues.
We try and pretend that our people are not humans – but they are!
When we treat them like human beings, we accept that what they tell us on face value is right, and that it has had an impact on them, then we give them an opportunity to be honest and open. We need to ask how we can help them get back to the best that they can be in the work environment.
In doing so, you create a lot of loyalty, buy-in and support.