Managers urged to show leadership in tackling presenteeism

Apr 20 2005 by Nic Paton Print This Article

Bosses need to set a clear example to their workers that they do not need to work all hours of the day if "presenteeism" in the workplace is to be tackled.

Dr Les Smith, group medical adviser for healthcare company First Assist, said presenteeism was a menace to the health of employees, their productivity and was not even that good for business.

"If employees arrive for work shattered because they have been working late the day before then it is obvious they will not perform to their best level," he told Management-Issues.

Organisations needed to ensure their employees worked smarter and more productivity, rather than just longer hours.

Bosses and executives could set an example by making it clear they were going to go home on time, and so should their staff.

Some companies, such as Microsoft, make it company policy that people leave the office on time and call in workers who consistently work late for a meeting to explain why they are doing such long hours.

Often presenteeism is simply down to bad organisation or how the job has been tasked but, more often than not, it is a cultural problem, with people fiddling about at their desks late in the evening simply because they do not want to be seen as the first person to get up and leave.

"It is often to do with the culture and climate within an organisation, as well as issues of morale," said Smith.

Other useful tips included introducing line manager health awareness training, health checks and promotions for all employees and low cost access to fitness facilities, suggested First Assist.

"Wellbeing audits", early intervention absence management services and round-the-clock access to expert medical, counselling and lifestyle advice through employee assistance programmes could also all be useful.

"This can be particularly helpful for those experiencing 'coping' difficulties, which manifest themselves in anxiety and depression, and accounts for at least 30 per cent of all absence," said First Assist.

Chief executive Tim Ablett added: "However hard it is to break the long hours culture, bosses should show leadership by taking responsibility for their own work-life balance and by respecting that of their employees.

"Over-time should be discouraged and the importance of lunch breaks and annual holidays promoted. By creating a positive health culture, businesses stand to gain from a healthy and motivated workforce, which will in turn reduce both absence and presenteeism issues and improve business performance."