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Naluri5 min read

The Three ‘Isms’ Costing Your Business Money

As an employer, your employees’ health can greatly influence your bottom line. Certain costs associated with unhealthy employees are more apparent, such as sick days and increased company health insurance premiums due to more medical and drug interventions.

However, other less apparent costs must also be considered. For instance, when employers are present but not performing at their best due to a cold, chronic condition, or mental health issue, this reduced level of productivity also impacts your business.

These can be identified as one of three types of employees: those who are never there, those who are burning out carrying the load, and those who are unable to take a breather.

In this article, we dive into the three ‘isms’ leaders need to know that’s costing their business money and how to reduce them happening in the workplace.



The first ‘ism’ is absenteeism, which is an employee’s habitual absence from work without good reason. While an employee’s absence due to illness, vacations, or personal emergencies is to be expected, frequent and unplanned absences are typically cause for concern.

Some reasons for absenteeism include job dissatisfaction, lack of work-life balance, a toxic work environment, or personal challenges, including mental health issues.

However, preventing employees the freedom to take days off due to illness and emergencies can also have a negative impact on your business. If employees are worried about criticism, lost pay, or job security, employers are inadvertently foster a culture of presenteeism, which can be much more costly than a sick day.



The second ‘ism’ is presenteeism, which refers to instances when employees turn up to work while physically or mentally sick. While some may think the best way is to ‘keep soldiering on’, the reality is that this frequently leads to lower productivity, lower quality of work, and increases the potential health risks for other team members.

There are many causes for presenteeism in the workplace, including job instability, a heavy workload, lack of motivation, and a workplace culture that discourages employees from utilising their sick leave.

Unlike absenteeism, where it is clear when staff aren’t at work, it is harder to track and measure presenteeism in the workplace, even though companies track the number of sick days an employee takes.



And lastly, leavism, coined in 2013 by Dr. Ian Hesketh, is a term that describes employees who take time away from work, typically annual leave, to conduct work when they are meant to be on leave. This can be as simple as taking a work call on vacation or clearing emails despite having an OOO (out-of-office) status.

Employees exuding this behaviour is typically caused by heavy workloads, job security, or when the employee has a blurred line between work and personal life.

On the surface, leavism may not seem like an issue as it could lead to high productivity and output. But in reality, the quality of work will depreciate over time, as employees will be more prone to making mistakes and errors. This is because employees will not only have less time to rest and recharge for when they come back to work, but also because they will not have the most dedicated focus to their work whilst on vacation.


Creating a smarter, not harder, working culture

According to McKinsey, burnout is on the rise in Asia, where one out of three workers experience symptoms of burnout compared to the global rate of one out of four.

And with burnt-out employees, not only does their physical and mental wellbeing take a hit, but so do those around them. When this happens, companies bear the brunt of both lower workplace productivity and employee satisfaction.

Based on the Naluri Mental Health Dataset 2023, 64% of respondents reported having not worked when they’re supposed to at least once a month. This loss in productivity can translate into a detrimental loss in cost in businesses. In Singapore, research conducted by the Duke-NUS Medical School found that presenteeism can cost employers $12.1 billion per year.

With this backdrop, how can companies curb the rise of these issues in the workplace? Here’s how:


Encourage your employees to take time off

As an employer, it’s important to encourage employees to take time off to rest and recharge. Whether they’re unwell or had a busy few weeks, remind them that they have their annual or sick leaves to utilise instead of ‘hustling’.

Many employees wait until they get burnt out before taking their leave, so check in on your team regularly to see how they’re doing. This can be in the form of a regular 1-on-1 session or encourage your team to practice taking a Burnout Assessment every few weeks.


Implement regular employee pulse surveys

Having anonymised and regular employee pulse surveys will not only give insights into what the company is doing well at but also shine light on what is currently lacking. This can help businesses take a more proactive approach to meeting employees’ needs and ultimately reduce employee turnover.


Provide a comprehensive wellness programme for all employees

To ensure that employees are not only productive but also feeling their best, companies must implement a comprehensive wellness programme to cater to each employee’s needs.

Take your programme a step further and implement one with a holistic wellness approach to ensure that each aspect of your employees’ health is taken care of. The Naluri Employee Assistance Programme deploys a multidisciplinary team of health coaches, including Mental Health Coaches, Fitness Coaches, Dietitians, and Career and Workplace Coaches, to build a personalised health plan for each employee.



It’s important to regularly review the procedures and procedures in place to ensure that the business promotes a positive culture of health and wellbeing among employees to curb the rise of absenteeism, presenteeism, and leavism.

If you want more insights into employee mental health and practical tips for leaders and managers to effect positive workplace change, download the Insights from the Naluri CHRO Roundtable Dialogue and Research on Employee Wellbeing booklet.