Presenteeism in the UK: Effects of physical and mental health on worker productivity

Office workers in a meeting.

Bryan ML, Bryce AM, Roberts J (2022) Dysfunctional presenteeism: Effects of physical and mental health on work performance. The Manchester School 90(4) 409-38.

Poor health in the workforce is costly to employers and the economy. This is partly due to health problems causing people to spend less time at work but is also due to people being less productive while at work. In this paper, we investigate the causes of presenteeism, defined as reduced productivity at work due to health problems.

This is the first study to estimate the extent of presenteeism in the UK workforce as a whole. We assess the extent to which physical and mental health affect people’s ability to do their job effectively and seek to expose some of the ‘hidden’ costs of ill health on the UK economy. We find that both physical and mental health significantly predict the probability of presenteeism. These effects persist in a longitudinal framework, such that a worsening of health over time significantly increases the probability of presenteeism; and the effects of mental health problems seem to be worse than physical health. In comparison, changes to other characteristics, such as work circumstances, have little or no effect on presenteeism, with the exception of perceived job security.

However, being in part time work and having autonomy over work tasks both significantly reduce the effect of mental health on presenteeism, suggesting that conducive working conditions can help to mitigate the negative impact of health on productivity.

Flagship institutes

The University’s four flagship institutes bring together our key strengths to tackle global issues, turning interdisciplinary and translational research into real-world solutions.