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Presentism: A Function of Economic Hardship

Factory WorkerIn a tough economic climate, employees who need to provide adequate lives for their families are increasingly hesitant to take time off from work. This is a trend that can lead to micro-traumas, which develop into increased pain symptoms and more extensive health issues.

Although the healthcare industry is seeing a shift from reactive care to proactive, preventive maintenance care, it is inevitable that people are going to develop symptoms and pain over time. Particularly in labor-intensive industries like pulp and paper or manufacturing, the repetitive stress and overuse of muscles and joints can take a toll the body.

Allowing micro-traumas to grow into chronic pain and other symptoms is inevitably going to affect both the physical and mental health of an employee, which can then take quite a financial toll on the employer.

“Ironically, during the time of a recession, absenteeism will decrease but presentism, that is being at work but not performing at optimum capacity, will increase,” says Cary Cooper, an American-born psychologist and Professor of Organizational Psychology and Health at Lancaster University Management School in Lancaster, England. “This not only affects the mental health of staff but also the profitability of the company.”

Cooper’s views on presentism shed light on the disadvantages for employees and employers alike when poor health and safety in the workplace are not addressed early – increased health problems for employees and decreased productivity and profitability for company.

So, you might ask, how does company leadership combat this emerging trend?

“I would urge managers and human resource managers to take the issue of work-related stress very seriously and implement professional strategies to help head off potential problems,” Cooper adds.

All of these signs point to the benefits of investing in proactive injury and illness prevention programs, which are tailored to ensure employees are fit to perform job duties and return home safely and happy at the end of each day.

Although company leadership cannot realistically be aware of problems employees are having on the job without being notified, it is the employers’ responsibility to ensure their organization holds a positive safety culture. Particularly in times of economic hardship, it is increasingly important for employees to have access to the resources that will allow them to perform at full potential and put their minds at ease.

What are some of the initiatives or programs that your workplace provides to ensure a positive safety and health culture throughout the company? How does your organization tackle presentism in the workplace?

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