Presenteeism is a relatively new area of study. It is defined as both the act of turning up to work while ill, and also of displaying low productivity and engagement at work despite being healthy – in both cases it is often referred to as showing ‘face time’. Global figures to estimate its cost to employers do not yet exist, but according to the Foresight study of mental capital and well-being, presenteeism costs UK businesses £1billion per year, a cost estimated at 1.3 times that of absenteeism. In the US, these figures sit at over $200 billion lost per year due to lost productivity associated with poor health. These figures are a clear indicator of the benefit for businesses tackling the issue of presenteeism through a range of measures, including workplace design.
An employee’s perception of how valued and supported they are by their employer can be a key determinant of well-being at work. This perception is accounted for in many validated psychological tools that seek to measure well-being in the workplace and it represents a possible inherent benefit of biophilic design – that the act of providing a purpose-designed environment for employees can boost those perceptions of value and support and in turn, impact well-being.
Given the economic imperative for organizations to provide positive work environments, and the wealth of academic evidence that shows the positive impact of biophilia, it is surprising that significant percentages of office workers across the globe still have no access to natural light (47%) or greenery (58%) within their environment. Such findings highlight a relatively straight-forward opportunity to improve workspaces and increase well-being, ultimately also reducing the likelihood of presenteenism among employees and keeping productivity levels high.