Dr Steve Boorman: A healthy staff helps to ensure a healthy profit
A RECENT report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development reveals that worries over job security are fuelling “presenteeism” as the number of employees going to work while ill has risen. There has been a corresponding increase in stress-related absence and mental health problems in the workforce.
During these difficult economic times, the wellbeing of the workforce can have a huge impact on the bottom line of a business: “presenteeism” costs UK companies up to £15 billion a year. Employers often forget that unwell people attending work can potentially cost the firm more money than a sick person who is absent.
Data produced by the Work Foundation shows that “presenteeism” costs 2.5-5 times more than sick absence. This is because the sick at work may be more difficult to manage, have a higher rate of accidents and issues associated with grievance/conduct, and may generally under-perform.
As with most health-related issues, prevention is always much better than cure. Prior to joining Abermed, I spent 20 years working with Royal Mail, where we implemented a number of absence management policies that are now being used by a range of UK organisations. A key factor in the success of these occupational health policies was procedures focused on improving health and there was a visible link between quality management communication with employees and reduced absence rates. Indeed, between January 2004 and June 2007, absence rates fell by 25 per cent and continued to improve.
These results were not achieved by targeting the sick, lame and wounded and forcing them to work but as a result of management practices promoting employee well-being. Employees were provided with better support and care when illness arose, alongside a policy to improve engagement, which enabled managers to control absence and hit their targets. It contributed to turning around the Royal Mail’s £1million-a-day losses into a £1.5m-a-day profit, demonstrating that occupational health has an important role to play in reducing sick presence by keeping employees well.
• Dr Steve Boorman is the medical director with Abermed, an occupational health provider
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