An increase in people going to work when ill is linked to increases in stress, anxiety and depression.
Presenteeism, meaning employees stay at their workplace for more hours than is required, or people coming into work when they are ill, has more than tripled since 2010.
This comes from a recent survey by the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, and health company Simplyhealth.
It found 86 percent of respondents said they had observed presenteeism in their organisation in the last 12 months, compared with 72 percent in 2016 and just 26 percent in 2010.
The survey also found that leaveism, where people use annual leave to work, is also a growing problem. More than two thirds of respondents reported that leaveism has occurred in their organisation over the last year.
Despite these worrying figures, the CIPD said only a minority of organisations are taking steps to challenge these unhealthy workplace practices.
Just a quarter of respondents that have experienced presenteeism say their organisation has taken steps to discourage it over the last year, a figure that has almost halved since 2016.
Similarly, only 27 percent of those who have experienced leaveism say their organisation is taking action to tackle it.
The CIPD said increased presenteeism is associated with increases in reported common mental health conditions as well as stress-related absence, which are among the top causes of long-term sickness absence, according to the survey.
However, only one in ten of those who are taking action said presenteeism and leaveism are viewed as a priority by the board, and less than six in ten say their organisation is currently meeting the basic legal requirements for reducing stress in the workplace.
Rachel Suff, senior employment relations adviser at the CIPD, said: “In order to encourage a healthy workplace, organisations need to look beyond sickness absence rates alone and develop a solid, evidence-based understanding of the underlying causes of work-related stress and unhealthy behaviour like presenteeism. Without this evidence base, efforts to support employees and improve their health and well-being will be short-lived.”
Pam Whelan, director of corporate at Simplyhealth, added: “An organisation’s greatest asset is its people and so it’s vital employers recognise the need to support their employees’ biggest assets – their physical and mental health and well-being.
“The report shows that organisations where senior leaders and line managers recognise the importance of well-being as a whole are more likely to report a reduction in presenteeism and leaveism. Therefore, in order to tackle these unhealthy work practices, we would encourage employers to invest in a wider health and well-being approach that is embedded into their culture and one that supports a preventative approach to employee health and well-being.”