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How To Calculate Presenteeism: 6 Main Ways

Updated: Feb 22

In a recent webinar PsycHR hosted on Mental Health and ROI in the workplace, we discussed presenteeism. Following the webinar, we had various follow ups from our 206 live listeners, about how to calculate presenteeism - and so we thought why not write a blog and share this mysterious calculation with you!


Presenteeism is defined as being present at work but not fully engaged and so not optimally performing. The reason why presenteeism has entered the spotlight again recently, is because it is used as one of the key variables in calculating the cost of mental health to an employer (Presenteeism + Absenteeism + Staff turnover). Presenteeism alone costs UK employers an estimated £28billion per year (2020).


But how do we actually calculate presenteeism? Okay, so the other two variables can be quantified; Absenteeism we can measure using absence and sickness reports, and Staff turnover we can measure using attrition data and exit interviews. However with presenteeism, as one of our colleagues candidly put it, "We can not see if an employee is thinking about other things and not really reading the material on the screen".


However, just like there are measures in Psychology for non-physical matters, so too are there ways to estimate presenteeism and calculate the cost to your organisation.


PsycHR advise 6 main ways to calculate presenteeism:


1. Standard Metric Questionnaire

Over the decades researchers have developed self-reporting questionnaires, these are commonly peer reviewed, used in studies, and come with score sheets to begin to quantify the data. They are particularly useful if you want to get a measure of big data. The most popular standard metric questionnaires for presenteeism are:

Work Productivity and Activity Impairment Questionnaire http://oml.eular.org/sysModules/obxOml/docs/ID_98/WPAI-GH_English_US_V2.pdf HPQ Employee Questionnaire https://www.hcp.med.harvard.edu/hpq/ftpdir/HPQ%20Employee%20Version%2081810.pdf Full Scoring https://www.hcp.med.harvard.edu/hpq/ftpdir/hpq_scoring_doc.pdf HPQ Short form https://www.hcp.med.harvard.edu/hpq/ftpdir/absenteeism%20presenteeism%20scoring%20050107.pdf HPQ Short Scoring https://www.hcp.med.harvard.edu/hpq/ftpdir/absenteeism%20presenteeism%20scoring%20050107.pdf


2. Literature Review

However, what if you want to be less invasive? and not give all of your employees a self reported questionnaire regarding how often they are engaged, motivated and present at work? In this case, why not carry out a Literature Review and take the standard score from a range of studies already carried out in workplaces. Some research papers include:

Stewart et al, 2003 - 1.32 hours per week of lost time due to presenteeism https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14665809/ Medibank, 2011 - 6.5 working days lost per employee per year https://www.medibank.com.au/client/documents/pdfs/sick_at_work.pdf Goetzel et al, 2004 - presenteeism drove from 18-61 per cent of total health costs (split into health care, pharmacy, absence and presenteeism) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15076658/


Even more effective, you can search for research articles for within your industry or even within your geographic location. For example presenteeism in Nordic countries has been said to be much lower than for East Asian countries. So try to select literature to review based on those most specific to your circumstances. PsycHR's current estimate is 1.2 hours per week per employee on time lost due to presenteeism for the average workforce in the UK.


3. Hours

If you want to use 'hours' as the measure in your calculation for presenteeism, here is a breakdown template for you:

Take total employees gross salary/ divide by number of employees = Average annual salary per employee / divide by 52 weeks = Average weekly salary / divide by 40 (hours in contract per week) = Average employee cost per hour x1.2 (baseline presenteeism estimate based on research) = Average cost of presenteeism to your organisation per hour per employee

x number of employees in organisation = Cost of presenteeism to your organisation per hour

x by 40 hours = Cost of presenteeism to your organisation per week

x by 4 = Cost of presenteeism to your organisation per month x by 12 = Annual estimated cost of presenteeism to your organisation


4. Days

If you want to use 'days' as the measure instead. Just follow a similar formula to that outlined above, but divide the total employee cost by 253 working days in 2021.


5. Percentage

Percentage is also used as a way to measure presenteeism, for example a question may ask "What percentage of your week do you think you are present but unproductive at work..." and the answer might be "10% of my week I am unproductive". Then to calculate this in relation to your company costs, take an 40 hour week, 10% is (40 x 0.1) = 4 hours lost per week, then multiply by 52 weeks (4 x 52) = 208 hours lost per year. This would be equivalent to approximately 1 week per year per employee (208/40 = 5.2 days). And so, to calculate this in £ cost for your organisation, apply the average weekly salary in your organisation.


6. Build Your Own

Finally, if the questions in the standard metric questionnaires do not suit your organisation or are not relevant enough; then build your own! PsycHR have helped many organisations do this, it can sometimes be the best approach, and naturally should generate the most accurate measure of presenteeism for your organisation. Our advice, is to use a small population of your workforce (up to 30%), ensure that they are diverse, and ideally not voluntary (as voluntary participants can have their own motives). Calculate your score for presenteeism using that data, average salary, and and then apply that to the rest of the workforce.


For more information, advice, or our services, please do not hesitate to contact us for a free consultation on 0208 350 9591 or email us at hello@psychr.co.uk. PsycHR are an HR consultancy and Training provider, specialising in mental health for the workplace


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