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How employers can avoid presenteeism in the workplace

According to a recent survey conducted by State of the Global Workplace, organisations with high scores for employee engagement showed just over 20% higher levels of profitability compared to those who did not value the practice as much. The same survey revealed that barely 7% of UK employees are actively engaged at work.

The latter is a concerning statistic given that, for many contemporary businesses (who rely on remote and flexible working), getting together in person to discuss human resources or business issues is a rarity. Given the effects of the current political climate on companies and the rising presence of AI, automation and machine learning (factors which are statistically more likely to worry employees or distance them from upper management), this could become increasingly costly.

What is employee engagement? 

Employee engagement is not a new phenomenon but, as stated by Forbes, the “topic seems to have evolved now to focus on employee experience as opposed to engagement”. This observation is fortified by another recent survey, this time conducted by Savills, entitled “What Workers Want: Europe”. Although largely directed at property developers, the survey can enlighten current employers and help to combat ‘presenteeism’, issues with employee retainment, and work dissatisfaction, as it pinpoints a number of office issues.

For example, when asked what the effect might be if an employee’s current workplace matched their ideal workplace, 63% of employees felt that this would increase productivity.

Interestingly, productivity is not thought to be substantially increased by offering workers superficial financial perks. In fact, research suggests the opposite and that non-monetary benefits and perks have become increasingly important.

Adjusting business practices

Employee engagement is about understanding and, in many cases, adjusting your business practices to suit your employees’ culture. The rejection of traditional working environments only amplifies the need for driving employee engagement rather than reducing its importance. Alongside an increase in profitability, companies with employee engagement programmes, forums and training also reported an increase in employee retention.

The ‘Culture Factor: Improving Employee Loyalty & Relationships’ reported that 2% of the UK employees surveyed stated that they would rather work a 60-hour week than work for a company that does not place adequate value on culture, a culture that the employer can only discover through forums and a dedicated employee engagement programme.

The importance of engagement cannot be underestimated; new technologies mean that excuses such as size of organisation and location(s) are no longer factors. By way of an example, Microsoft is using online conferences and enterprise-level social networking to build a sense of community for close to 150,000 employees. Such schemes are allowing leaders to engage with employees outside of their office space and even across time zones.

One of their initiatives is to hold an ‘Employee Town Hall Meeting’, an open forum that is broadcasted live for employees and available on-demand. The leadership team take questions directly from the employees, allowing them to raise topics and discuss the employee culture. An ‘anything-goes’ regime may not suit all business needs but be wary of stifling an employee’s opportunity to voice their concerns.

Employee engagement stated by Forbes, the “topic seems to have evolved now to focus on employee experience as opposed to engagement”.

Google have recently implemented strict guidelines on employee communications, including urging staff members not to make misleading comments about the company. However, employees are more likely to engage and give honest — and therefore useful — feedback if they do not fear repercussions.

A great starting point is conducting a small employee survey of your own. Continuing with the Microsoft example, they reportedly send out a small survey to a small sample of employees everyday. The questions vary but the overarching focus is on ‘how better can management and leadership adapt and improve to suit your needs as an employee’.

An annual or quarterly survey will be sufficient and shows your employees that you value their opinion. Research shows us that keeping an open and communicative relationship with employees that goes beyond discussions of their job role can help to develop a culture that facilitates productivity, giving rise to measurable increases in customer satisfaction, staff retention and enterprise value.

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This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.

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