Presenteeism is the No. 1 issue for employers in terms of its negative impact on the workforce and the extent to which is can be improved with counselling through an employee assistance program, according to a new survey by Morneau Shepell Ltd.

The survey, which covered insights from more than 35,000 employees gathered between 2010 and 2019, found 56 per cent of respondents had an issue in their lives that made it difficult to concentrate on their work; however, this fell to 28 per cent after counselling. More than a third (37 per cent) reported dissatisfaction with life overall, indicating a level of clinical distress, which fell to 16 per cent after counselling.

Further, 32 per cent said they weren’t engaged in their work, falling to 23 per cent after counselling. And just under a quarter (22 per cent) reported feelings of dread when going to work, which fell to 13 per cent after counselling.

Read: Head to head: Which is more disruptive: absenteeism or presenteeism?

The survey’s findings were largely consistent across employee age, sex, region, industry, the issue causing presenteeism or absenteeism, the number of counselling sessions used and for how long. They were also similar regardless of whether the EAP was provided by an external vendor, internally or through some combination of the two.

“The results of the [survey] confirm that short-term counselling offered through EAPs work very well for employees and employers alike,” said Barb Veder, vice-president for global clinical services, research lead and chief clinician at Morneau Shepell, in a press release “At a time when employees need convenient and effective support for work and life issues, employers looking for a cost-effective way to both provide this benefit while countering presenteeism and absenteeism should strongly consider an EAP.”

Read: The link between presenteeism, financial stress, paid sick days