Productivity levels at workplaces across Barbados have increased over the last four years, but the issue of absenteeism is still a major challenge, said Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo, who believes workplace wellness programmes may be helpful in tackling that issue.
“Based on the national surveys on productivity carried out between 2012 and 2016, we recorded the largest growth of 2.7 per cent in 2015, up from 0.2 per cent in 2014. Statistics from 2016 are not yet available, but one of our concerns is that the surveys also showed a high level of absenteeism,” she said during the media launch of this year’s May Day celebrations at the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) Solidarity House headquarters.
“There is also presenteeism, where people show up for work but do not function efficiently.”
While acknowledging that in some instances people were indeed shirking their responsibilities, Byer-Suckoo added that there were many other factors that contributed to absenteeism, such as chronic illness, injury, low workplace morale, child and elder care issues, burnout and stress.
Bearing that in mind, the minister stressed the importance of workplace wellness programmes and commended the BWU for teaming up with stakeholders to develop a National Workplace Wellness Policy.
“Studies in developed countries have reported an increase in productivity, fewer sick days, lower medical costs and improved staff morale and corporate image as outcomes of workplace wellness initiatives,” she pointed out.
Byer-Suckoo added that a prime task for the trade unions was to educate workers and their union officials in productivity approaches and their significance in the workplace.
“Performance appraisal tools must also be negotiated, understood and implemented, not as employers’ tools to be feared, but as tools to benefit all in the organization,” she added.
The minister also reiterated that increased productivity was important for Barbados’ sustainable social and economic development, and said the Social Partners had to move towards creating a culture of productivity “through the promotion of productivity interventions and performance management”.
The theme for this year’s May Day celebrations is GETUP – Getting Everyone To Understand Productivity.