Is presenteeism a bottomline-impacting issue in our workplaces?

“Physically present, mentally absent” is a term we’ve all grown up hearing in school.

What if this is now a bottomline-impacting issue at our workplace?

There’s now a name to it: Presenteeism. As opposed to absenteeism, or unplanned leave mostly owing to illness, we now have fatigue, distraction, and other physical or mental factors being the primary cause of low productivity. People are in the office, but are not completely there. This could be partly because of physical stressors like sitting for long hours at one place; fatigue brought in by chronic overwork; various bodily aches and pains due to a sedentary lifestyle. Talk to anyone who works full time, and they will most likely complain about a sleep deficit. Most people’s weekends begin at noon, because it’s the only time they have to catch up on sleep, and function close to optimally. We live from alarm to reminder to notifications – our lives are punctuated by the ‘ding’ sounds of the phone, nudging us on to the next thing needing our attention.

Further, there is an increase in alcohol and tobacco dependency across age categories. But possibly, the most afflicted is the under 30 category. In urban India, the millennials feel compelled to not just do well in studies but also sports, extra curriculars, stand out of the crowd, follow their passion, be financially independent, travel the world, and do all of this as soon as possible. This puts them up as the highest risk group for dependency on cigarettes, various opiates, and alcohol. Once this group joins the workplace, the issue is one inherited by the organization.

How does an employee wellness program help?

Firstly, it wakes the workforce up – to their own realities. It helps employees realize that there is a more mindful way to live, and that can be accessed by starting off with a few easy steps.

Like this HBR article says, seasonal illnesses and allergies are effects also. With our air-conditioned environments, choked up traffic, and increasingly contaminated air, water and food, the issue isn’t going to go away on its own. The cost of presenteeism is a reality. The long-term spend is to be thought out with the intent to generate big savings in the future. What’s more, having a healthier workforce positively impacts an organization in myriad ways.

We’re taking the pulse at Corporate Health Summit, Bangalore. Register now and be a part of this discussion.

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