Recent reports show that average sickness absence fell from 6.7 to 5 days in 2010, the lowest for over two decades. The EEF/Westfield Health survey also found that 45% of employees had no time off at all. Data from 454 employers demonstrated a number of factors, including the impact of the fit note, line managers taking greater responsibility for absence management and employers funding private health care.
What I cannot find anywhere is any recent data about presenteeism (lost productivity through people at work but feeling and performing below par). This is obviously hard to measure but it seems logical that, in a troubled economy (with increased unemployment and reduced job security), people might be concerned about taking time off. Can we then infer that some of the improvement in absenteeism statistics can be attributed to presenteeism? That is, people are still sick but just not taking time off. We may never know!
The presenteeism research that does exist suggests that its cost is dramatically higher than the cost of absenteeism.
There are many ways that ergonomics interventions can impact presenteeism and we are always looking for simple ways to assess their success (or otherwise). Such implementations should always enhance wellbeing and performance but their impact may be hard to measure.
The Work Screen tool (reviewed in our October 2010 webinars) assesses “Work Instability” using a unique scale incorporating both physical and psycho-social factors. This enables employers to identify those struggling with their workload and formulate an action plan to address their needs. Subsequently, further Work Screens can be carried out to assess the effectiveness of the interventions.