'Soldiering on' through illness causes more workplace harm

'Soldiering on' through illness causes more workplace harm

The office orchestra around this point of Autumn is the same year-on-year: there’s an ensemble of coughers; a whole section of splutterers; likely there’s a row or two of sneezers; all backed by a chorus of snifflers.

Yet, what might appear to be earnest hard work – employees dragging themselves into the office in the face of seasonal ailments isn’t the best attitude to have, and can hold negative effects for both worker and employer.

Writing in the Financial Times, Pilita Clark noted that “several experts claim that presenteeism is now a bigger problem in the UK than absenteeism and could even help explain the country’s dismal productivity growth”.

Yet, Clark explains, the trend of ‘soldiering on’ isn’t something that the new trend of ‘workplace wellness’ programmes can fix. Whilst many companies now offer free gym passes, dental care and ‘ping-pong’ tables – this isn’t tackling presenteeism.

She adds: “The chief reasons people soldier on have nothing to do with how fit they are. It is because they work for leaner, more stressed, companies where redundancies are common and the pressure to do more with less is constant.

“This makes some people fret that they will be targeted in the next round of redundancies if they have taken a lot of time off. Others worry about lumbering stretched colleagues with more work in their absence.” 
With Canada Life Group finding that nine out of 10 employees still go into work when they’re ill – citing high workloads as the main reason, Clark is right in thinking that the workload of UK workers is forcing them into high-stress employment. For Professor Cary Cooper, CIPD President, the solution lies in management. He thinks that line managers should be trained to be better at spotting when employees are under too much stress or are getting ill.

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