Presenteeism – The costly unaddressed issue facing every business

Presenteeism or working while sick can cause productivity loss, poor health, exhaustion, and workplace epidemics.

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Hi there everyone and welcome to my latest mental health article, where I’d like to share my thoughts and experiences of presenteeism. If you are unaware of this term that is being spoken of more and more, especially concerning businesses and the cost of presenteeism to businesses. The term or word presenteeism as described in the dictionary is said to be the practice of coming to work despite illness, injury, and anxiety, often resulting in reduced productivity.

From age 17 to 38, I suffered from a range of mental health illnesses, including OCD and epilepsy. For years I was afraid to speak out about my mental health issues. When eventually I got the courage to do so, I was met with hostility, judgments, and being made to feel I was a worthless human being. So, I’d like to delve a little deeper here into presenteeism and how it may be costing your organisation in loss of productivity. Why do I know this? Because it used to affect my productivity in the workplace and my overall wellbeing.

But before I do that, I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the positive impact that Tony J. Selimi’s twenty-five conscious engineering principles embedded in his one of a kind method, the TJSeMethod: ALARM and his integrated coaching and mentoring work have had on my life. Over the last four years, I have seen how this truly remarkable man’s work has been changing the lives of many of his clients. I have had the pleasure meeting. It was the changes Tony helped me create in my psychology, behaviours and habits that significantly reduced my absenteeism habit and sickness.

Imagine this, what it would feel like to believe that you may have murdered several people over the years and that on your return home from work each night, you are terrified that the Police could be waiting outside your home to arrest and charge you with these murders?

Imagine lying in bed unable to sleep for hours at night for years because the doubt in your mind is so much that you struggle to decipher just what is and isn’t real? Imagine the nightmares created by this that lead you to wake 3, 4 times every night in sweats each time believing you are in a prison cell, then taking several minutes sometimes up to 30 minutes to calm yourself and realise that you aren’t, that you are at home in bed?

‘You’ve just imagined Pure ‘O’ and the actual reality that I lived through each day and night for over two decades, that is before I started to use Tony’s empowerment principles to reduce my OCD significantly and cure myself of epilepsy.’

When my OCD started aged 17, I believed if I didn’t count items seven times invisibly in my mind, it had to be in mind so others couldn’t see, that if I didn’t do so, I might die by not doing so. Highly irrational and convoluted thinking, sure you’ll agree, 100’s of millions of OCD sufferers struggle globally with such thoughts. Like others, I found it hugely embarrassing to talk also of these thoughts, so like others, I didn’t and went to great lengths to hide my illness.

‘For although they know how irrational they are, it’s not enough for us as sufferers to try to stop this way of thinking. Some research shows people who suffer from OCD to have brains that are wired differently.’

Many people with OCD suffer from having intrusive thoughts; this means you irrationally believe you are capable of or may even have murdered people, it is merely terrifying and can consume your entire life as it did mine.

Like many who suffer in silence from poor mental health my only respite came in the form self-destructive coping behaviours of reaching for alcohol or drugs, for when I was drunk or taking drugs, the thoughts would alleviate and leave me for a time. On sobering up, they would always return and be present in my mind, sometimes even more so especially if I had suffered alcohol, drug-induced blackout. I drank to get rid of my thoughts even for a short time, but if I blacked out on sobering up the thoughts would drive me to the brink of suicide and insanity, I have to say they did more than once when I believed them to be true.

Perhaps like me, you’ve suffered from a blackout, where you wake in your bed or on your couch and have no recollection of how you’ve gotten home? If like myself due to alcoholism you too may have suffered from hundreds of blackouts and on awaking from one almost immediately intrusive thoughts would enter your mind, of perhaps you’ve killed someone during your walk home from the pub at shutting time, and you simply can’t remember.

When this occurs, it would take many of you almost a week to calm down, and realise that you hadn’t. Another factor of those of us who have had symptoms of Pure ‘O’ is the doubts in our mind created by our thoughts and blackouts.

So the most comfortable way that many of us sufferers cope apart from alcohol and drugs is to avoid people and these situations altogether. At times OCD leaves many of us housebound, once in my early 20’s I was housebound for over seven months. I never left my home once because of my Pure ‘O.’ How well we cope with our demons triggered by various mental health many of us experience at some point in our life determines how well we as employees perform in any business.

So how does this tie into presenteeism in the workplace, please let me explain. Well, I never spoke of my Pure ‘O’ until I was 38, the time I began working with Tony J. Selimi, a human behaviour specialist, transformational life coach, and business mentor. Sometimes, I do wonder how my life would, and those I know who suffer from mental health would have turned if we all had invested in working with experts like Tony who can create a safe space for many of us can start our journey to heal?

Personally, I know I would have been branded crazy or labelled mad at the very least. Before my working, with Tony, I believed I was not worthy of being listened, too; in fact, I felt worthless. I thought its best for me to suffer in silence continually, but at the same time, this left me feeling completely crippled inside.

Due to my blackouts and irrational thinking that I couldn’t stop until I sought Tony’s and other experts in their respective fields of work related to healing the body-mind, I would find myself not being as productive due to my mind wondering. Physically I was present at my desk monitoring and updating flanged joint registers, preparing punch packs or be on-site taking part in Tri-Party Walk downs, and mentally I was utterly gone, entirely elsewhere.

How many of us recognise this feeling of being absent, these moments of our mind being elsewhere?

It is this awareness that Tony masterfully awakened in me that made me invest in my personal development and healing my body-mind. He made me see how it is what is going on in the employee’s mind while performing various tasks that give rise to billions of pounds in cost. Due to the stigma and shame attached to people suffering from poor mental health as well as the judgements of society, many choose silence. Investing in a teacher and educator like Tony, you come to realise that your business can thrive and that your life isn’t perfect as so many of us falsely believe when we compare our lives with others.

Before I could never speak the truth of what I was going through, after all, I had a job and a home to keep and I’d witnessed how others were treated in the UK Oil & Gas Industry who opened up about such illnesses and seen how horrifically some had been treated and still are even today.

For me, the above is only about 5% of my personal experience of Presenteeism in the workplace; in reality, it would take a lifetime to share people’s experiences and its effects on the businesses.

Companies experience sickness, absenteeism and presenteeism differently, the reason being, as Tony made me aware, everyone’s presenteeism manifests in the business in its unique way and contributes to a collective presenteeism problem. According to this study by Vitality Health in partnership with the University of Cambridge, RANS Europe and Mercer presenteeism is on the increase.

The figures relating to mental health are astounding, mental health costs the UK Economy £35 Billion a year which equates to £1,300 for every employee in the UK Economy. So, by this example, if your business employs 25,000 people, 25,000 x £1300 is equal to £32,500,000. £32.5 Million a year and with the average workdays in a year being 250 approx. in the UK each year this equates to a company or business division with 25,000 employees losing £130,000 a day through sickness, absenteeism and presenteeism or £89,000 a day if taken over 365 days. In comparison, the hiring cost of having an expert like Tony in your business is insignificant.

Many places I have worked in that develop company mental health and wellbeing strategies try to save money and not hire experts that can help them. The truth is, the costs of sickness and presenteeism are only predicted to grow, and in the UK despite what the Government say, mental health funding, services are being cut, more and more plus mental health staff are streaming out of the NHS to save their sanity.

Being mentored and coached by Tony J. Selimi, whose 30 years of research, study and experience in the corporate world helped him establish an easy path to healing and empowerment, is what have inspired me to write articles that hopefully add value to your life and business. I also did a few video interviews, but beyond all doubt, talking about presentism is the hardest article I have written so far. This is because of the pain that gets re-experienced in recalling those memories, but I understood how else we could raise awareness and instil action in others if we remain engulfed by our fears and too afraid to share? How can others possibly ever gain a deeper understanding of the suffering in silence continues so prevalent?

Many people are now talking more and more of mental health, companies realise the importance of doing so, but why talk without having a considerable action to follow? Will we continue to speak until we wake up?

When I chat about mental health with my colleagues, a vast subject majority including Leaderships are simply not comfortable conducting, many especially male colleagues simply won’t engage, or some choose to remain silent from the fear of being made redundant, others brush it off with a jokey comment or make an excuse to leave the scene immediately.

The majority who do comment on my articles, videos or after a conversation says to me that I’m wasting my time. That it’s just lip service, companies are only doing this because the Government has instructed them to do so, I often hear comments like this. ‘I’ll believe it when I see it.’

Others have said how my story is just one of the millions that people share globally that are a testament of how out of touch some business leaders are with the reality of how employees feel about themselves, the environment in which they work and the business itself. From the fear of losing employment, many employees remain afraid to express, at least publicly, how they feel, especially if they’ll be repercussions as may have happened in the past.

Reading Tony’s books A Path to Wisdom and #Loneliness helps you upgrade your psychology, instil new beliefs, so they can support you in being healthier, more productive and focused in your day to day work and hopefully, with me sharing my stories, inspire leaders and senior managers to bring onboard experts like Tony to spark a dialogue where exact change can happen.

I believe each one of us has to start somewhere, or you might as well never start at all and that perhaps all it takes is for one person within a company to help create a legacy that mutually benefits the majority and the bottom line simultaneously, creating a win-win scenario for all.

Paul McMonagle

PS – Whenever you’re ready, here are three ways Tony can help you alleviate the cost of presenteeism, sickness and absenteeism, increase your team’s productivity, your physical well-being, business performance and successfully implement organisational comprehensive wellbeing strategies.

#1 … Grab your copy of Tony’s #1 Amazon bestselling books A Path to Wisdom and #Loneliness. You can also enrol in Tony’s Mindfulness for Higher Productivity, Performance and Profitable Life Udemy Course! Click here to join thousands of his happy students at a 50% discount.

#2 … Make the fastest progress by hiring Tony to work with you on a one-on-one basis or book a full day to work with you on your business.

#3 … Hire Tony to speak at your next company or industry event. Click HERE to download his “speaker sheet”, learn more about him and fill in the form with your event info.

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