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Agile Working V Presenteeism

Posted On: 16/04/2019

Could our culture of presenteeism be preventing more companies exploring the benefits of agile working?

What is presenteeism?

This is the term used when employees feel that they need to be present at their place of work.  Individuals will turn up for work whether they are feeling ill, anxious or disengaged. But why do they feel like this? It may be because they have fears over their job security, fears about looking lazy, worries about a heavy workload or concerns over a reduction in pay. 

Presenteeism denies the individual the time needed to recover and may exacerbate the problem.

Research has revealed that some employees believe that managers consider those present in the office to be working harder than those working remotely and that working over their contracted hours may lead to promotion.

What is agile working?

This flexible approach to working is based on a culture of improving ways of working. It embraces two main structures: the hours worked and the location. 

Business and social trends have changed significantly in the past decade and the advances of digital technology have broken down the barriers allowing employees to work outside of their workplace and the regular 9-5 working pattern. 

Agile working ensures that your customers get the best possible service, improves the wellbeing of your employees, helps to retain key staff, attracts a wider talent pool, increases productivity and reduces an organisation’s carbon footprint.

Furthermore, an agile company can react to change quickly and effectively through the continual development of individuals and taking a more fluid approach to roles and resource. This allows individuals to bridge gaps should a key player leave or step up to support a new project. 

Why presenteeism can be a problem

Presenteeism is a threat to productivity as employees who feel like they must be seen to be present in the workplace can quickly experience burnout.  These employees are likely to turn up during periods of ill-health (both physically and mentally) and frequently start their day earlier than needed, stay late and feel reluctant to have their full allocation of breaks. 

Poor morale and illnesses are equally infectious meaning that a culture of presenteeism can actually cost businesses more than the impact of absenteeism.

Why agile working can be a problem

There is a real problem that those who work remotely often feel that they still need to be ‘seen’. This may result in the employee starting work earlier than their contracted hours just to send emails and respond to emails later than usual simply to prove that they are working hard.

Trust and responsibility

The issues with presenteeism are clear and tangible, but what about the issues surrounding agile working? Creating an agile-friendly culture is not just about creating new policies or procedures it’s about changing mindsets and behaviours. 

Tackling presenteeism

Ensure your company’s sickness and absence polices are available to all employees and regularly reviewed.  Create a supportive workplace culture where employees know how and who to ask for help.

Becoming agile

Introducing wellbeing initiatives that include flexible ways of working is key to help change mindsets and drive an organisation towards a more agile way of working.

Off sick or working from home?

This question may be familiar to many Managers: “I’m not well enough to come to work, can I work from home today?” 

It’s perfectly feasibly that someone is not fit to get into the office but still able to do work at home, albeit with reduced productivity, and asking to work from home can be appropriate.  However, the employee should be challenged and not encouraged as working from home when unwell may become perceived as normal practice putting pressure on those who are genuinely too ill to work from home.

When an employee is off sick through self-certification or a fit note they cannot work from home as this is a breach of an employer’s care of duty.  The employee must be classed as off sick or working from home – it cannot be both.

We’re Here To Help

If you think your organisation is ready to become more agile our HR professionals are here to help you achieve your goals.  Simply give our friendly team a call on 0161 941 2426.

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