Karlsruhe / Konstanz (dpa) – With a positive corona test, the matter is clear: the office remains a taboo subject. But what if you have headaches and even start a depressive phase? Many people still go to work.
This phenomenon is called presenteeism – according to experts, it does not help either sick employees or employers. The market with digital offerings is currently expanding, especially in the field of mental health.
Every second employee (51%) in Germany travels to work occasionally, frequently or very often, as the Institute of Occupational Medicine Advice in Konstanz found out for Techniker Krankenkasse. According to a study published in the fall, women are more present than their male counterparts.
“From an economic point of view, the costs associated with presenteeism are at least as high as the costs associated with absenteeism due to illness,” according to the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. According to psychologist Simon Hahnzog, the proportion could be even greater. The costs to companies as a result of presenteeism are about twice as high as those incurred by actual or allegedly sick employees. However, many companies are more concerned about manual workers and are putting more energy and money into fighting this absenteeism.
Negative consequences for both sides
However, Hahnzog explains that anyone who works poorly is only able to perform to a limited extent: “I’m there eight hours a day, but I only work effectively five.” leads to further costs: “This is an avalanche effect,” says Hahnzog, who also advises companies on this topic. “If one makes a mistake, ten others may have to work an extra hour.” Many more accidents also happened when people went to work sick. And constant, regular presenteeism increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and mental disorders.
The number of absent days, mainly due to mental illness, has been increasing over the years, says Simon Senner, chief physician at the Psychiatric Center in Reichenau near Konstanz. At the beginning of the pandemic, this trend was halted. “The fear of existence has probably led to more people hobbling to work.” The number of days of absence will increase again from autumn 2020 at the latest. In the first half of 2022, there were now significantly more sick leaves at work than a year ago, according to the DAK health insurance fund. This was mainly due to many diseases of the respiratory system, but corona discharge failure also worsened.
Home office as an incentive to presenteeism?
Hahnzog assumes that the events of the pandemic will exacerbate the trend: “In the home office, the work threshold has become much lower anyway. I’m not really sick, so I can switch to zoom for a while. ” Home recovery time is reduced. Employees have been entrusted with even greater personal responsibility, says Hahnzog. Managers, on the other hand, pay less attention to the health of home workers.
Under the Health and Safety at Work Act, employers are required to carry out a psychological risk assessment, as Senner emphasizes. In his opinion, however, only half did. While security measures such as spacers are relatively easy to take against physical hazards, they are more difficult when dealing with mental stress. However, managers could learn to recognize possible mental disorders, then address them appropriately and offer support.
In line with the trend, there are now many apps for people with mental stress, says Senner, who is also a member of Wellster’s medical advisory board, a provider of digital health platforms. “There is money for things like mental health in the workplace, and investments are made there.”
One example is the start-up Heyvie from Karlsruhe, which was established in 2021 to help people with migraines. Marius Krämer and Hady Daboul want to get rid of pain for people affected by so-called neurocentric training. “The technology identifies areas of the brain that are not functioning optimally due to old patterns and injuries, and aims to get rid of the limitations in the shortest possible time,” explain both of them.
The consumer center recommends caution when using the application
Several exercises are available for free in the app. Depending on the desired scope and application, a four-week program for 19.99 euros or a personalized training from 125 euros per hour is possible. The app was tested until March and hundreds of people have used it since then, says Krämer. Contrary to widespread back pain, migraines are still stigmatized from his point of view and lead to presenteeism. “Almost everyone knows a headache.”
Senner, in turn, advises Nilo Health. An offer addressed to companies, they could propose it to employees. There are online therapy offers for patients at helloeasy.de, for example for stress, anxiety or sleep problems.
The Consumer Center points out that there are no uniform quality criteria. “Most of the applications in this fast-growing market have not been scientifically tested for usability.” So there may be applications that are helpful – but also those that, in the worst case, can cause harm due to incorrect measurements. It is advisable to discuss this with your GP.
The market is growing strongly, says head doctor Senner. Digital offers are an important help and enable victims to seek support without embarrassment or other obstacles. “Digitization in healthcare enables faster and individually accessible treatments for everyone.”