Unwell employees at work: what’s the cost to your business?

Have you ever encountered unwell staff coming into work instead of recovering at home? This issue of presenteeism is an increasing problem within small businesses. In a 2017 survey, 86 per cent of respondents said they had witnessed presenteeism in their organisa­tions over the previous 12 months. That’s up from the 2016 figure of 72 per cent.

The stats for leaveism – where employees work when they shouldn’t – also reveal cause for concern. Three-fifths of small businesses report that staff complete work outside contracted hours and two-fifths use allocated holidays and other time off to cover their illnesses1.

The data shows a workforce struggling to find the downtime we all need to maintain our wellbeing. And in small businesses, where teams may be compact, the conse­quences of poor employee wellbeing can be far-reaching.

False economies

On the face of it, someone working longer hours may not seem like an issue. But the CIPD reports that there are several ways ill people working can end up costing your business. They may work less effectively, make more mistakes and ultimately remain unwell for longer. Similarly, a work environ­ment where staff feel obliged to work out of hours can grind down team morale.

Focus on wellbeing

There are many different measures you can consider taking to start shifting the work-life balance at your business, addressing em­ployee wellbeing and aiming to reduce the effect of illness.

Encourage cultural change

If you feel presenteeism and leaveism are an issue in your business, have an honest conversation with all members of your team, including managers. To be effective, this intervention needs to be paired with a realistic look at workloads, and an active strategy of reducing pressure.

Build a better workplace

Of those surveyed in England, 85 per cent say the quality of their environment impacts how they feel2. There are fixes to suit a range of budgets – from improving air quality with better ventilation systems to buying plants and allowing workers to take turns in sitting close to windows.

Offer support

Offering structured support, from fitness groups to cycle-to-work schemes, can give your employees the boost to their mental and physical health.

With Bupa’s business cover, you don’t have to face the challenges of employee wellbeing alone. Our services are here to guide you and your team on the path towards work-life balance and wellbeing, and provide a safety net if it’s ever needed.


If you’re looking to help your team find the right work-life balance, we can help you tackle presenteeism and leaveism in the workplace with a wide range of support and tools. Call 0808 302 8698 to find out more or visit bupa.co.uk/business.

We may record or monitor our calls. Lines are open 8:30am to 6pm Monday to Friday.


1 CIPD Report (Health and well-being at work), May 2018 

2 Wellbeing in Small Business: How you can help (A short guide), FSB September 2017

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