Employees more concerned about presenteeism than employers: Survey

Stress, anxiety big factors

More than one-half of Canadian employees see presenteeism as a serious issue within their workplace, according to a survey of employees, employers and physicians by Morneau Shepell. Presenteeism is defined as time spent at work while not productively engaged in work.

Eight out of 10 employee respondents self-reported experience with presenteeism, with 81 per cent indicating they have gone into work while they were not able to perform as well as they would have liked.

When asked why, 47 per cent said physical sickness played a role, followed closely by stress or anxiety (40 per cent), found the survey of 1,005 employees (including 104 physicians) and 100 employers.

Almost one in four (22 per cent) blamed issues with their work/workplace or co-workers/managers and 15 per cent specified depression.

Employees are more likely to see presenteeism as a serious issue than employers — 53 per cent of employees indicated presenteeism is a serious issue in their workplace, versus 32 per cent of employers.

Fifty-two per cent of employers see absenteeism as a serious issue in their workplace compared to 43 per cent of employees.

"Despite reports of the multi-billion-dollar impact of employee absenteeism on the Canadian economy, as well as evidence of the mitigating effect of integrated absence management strategies, many employers may be unaware of the extent and causes of presenteeism and absenteeism issues within their own organization," said Paula Allen, vice-president of research and integrative solutions at Morneau Shepell.

When asked to identify the reason for their last absence, 52 per cent of employees indicated the reason was not related to illness. These employees were more likely to report both higher work-related stress and lower levels of support from their organization for mental wellness.

Illness-related absence was more likely for employees who reported absence was a serious issue in their workplace.

"These employees perceive a culture of unmanaged absenteeism, which could cause strain in the workplace and take a toll on employee health," said Allen.

On the presenteeism side, presenteeism can also be predicted by higher levels of reported work-related stress, found Morneau Shepell.

"Our research findings suggest that employee absenteeism is not random, meaning that predictors of both illness and non-illness related absence can be influenced by an employer," said Allen. "What this means is that employers have a tremendous opportunity to influence absenteeism in their workplaces, and ultimately improve the health, well-being and productivity of their organization."

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