Pandemic at 3: a trio of ways to help employees be present when they’re present

February 9, 2022

For business owners, plan administrators, and sponsors

Our first article about presenteeism shared that employees admit to being unproductive an average of 57.5 days a year – a staggering number that could cost your organization millions of dollars each year.1

Presenteeism is when an employee is physically at work but not fully productive because of stress or a physical or mental health condition.

People being distracted at work isn’t new, but today’s environment may be magnifying the issue for many employees.

“We’re heading into the third year of a pandemic and it feels even more important to address its impact to productivity,” explains Eric Pfeiffer, a Senior Health Management Consultant at Manulife. “We need to help employees identify and manage their stress or mental and physical health issues.”

Here are three ways that you can begin addressing presenteeism:

Acknowledge it. Talk about presenteeism with your leaders, the HR team, and employees. Take the stigma out by having honest, empathetic conversations about what distracts us and cuts our productivity.

Understand it. Work to understand the health concerns driving issues among your employees. Through your claims history, Manulife can help you analyze which health conditions are most expensive for your organization and then dig into risk factors.

“If the data shows your highest cost is related to mental health, start there, and consider what programs and policies you could put in place to help employees,” said Pfeiffer. “If the data shows the biggest issues are around physical health, investigate resources and programs aimed at promoting physical wellbeing.”

One way to start gathering data to better understand your workplace wellness and act on what’s important for your organization is by taking part in the 2022 Wellness Report, a free organizational health survey by Manulife Vitality.

Focus on prevention. If you don’t have a health promotion program, put one in place to grow awareness of risk factors, and help employees make positive changes. If you already have a program, consider how you can boost participation. Set yourself a goal to increase participation by 20% in the next 12 months.

Creating an environment that demonstrates you want employees to prioritize their physical and mental wellbeing is essential to addressing presenteeism. Employees who feel supported to take the time they need before their physical or mental load becomes too much to bear are employees who bring their best to work each day.

Supporting employees’ health can help decrease presenteeism and absenteeism, increase productivity and engagement, and foster a positive and healthy work environment that can attract and retain talent.

Read more: Asking this question could be a key to employee engagement

You can find more information on employee mental and physical health in Manulife’s 2020 Wellness Report.