While presenteeism is not a typical word you hear in the workplace, employers are well aware of it and what it actually stands for. Presenteeism or working while you’re sick can lead to less productivity, exhaustion, poor health, stress and is a true workplace epidemic.

Company managers are usually responsible for evaluating individual employees based on their “contribution” to the company.  The problem with that, it means if you’re sitting in front of the computer screen, you’re viewed as a “good employee.” If you attend work all the time, you’re considered to be “loyal” to the company. This is when the issue of presenteeism can show its ugly head. 

There’s a number of different things that may be going on in an employee’s life that would be cause for them to miss work but they attend work anyway, such as;

  • Feel sick or ill
  • Have a chronic condition  
  • Dealing with stress or loss
  • Dealing with medical conditions
  • Find it hard to get reliable child care
  • Finding it hard to take care of aging parents

Employees deal with a lot of different things on any given day of the week. If they’re coming to work while they’re sick or finding it difficult to get a babysitter, do you think their focus is on work? Absolutely not, this is why presenteeism is bad for employers.

Just because an employee is in front of a screen or at their desk doesn’t mean they’re being productive. Just because an employee attends work all of the time doesn’t mean they’re being productive, when other things are going on in their life, it’s quite the opposite.

In many cases, presenteeism is often related with absenteeism, which means employees tend to not show up for scheduled work. Some think you can reduce absenteeism but that it increases presenteeism. Even so, it doesn’t always work out like that. In industries where we see high presenteeism, we often see high absenteeism too.

What Causes Presenteeism?

Presenteeism is something that stems from internal pressure, external pressure, or both. For example, if you have an employer that sets unrealistic goals, it can cause employees to come in to work on days when they have no reason to be there in the first place.

Some bosses strongly discourage employees from missing work or taking time off, even when things are bad and they have a valid reason to miss work. This points back to the idea that “loyalty” to the company requires employees to be at work as much as possible. 

Employees that have a high sense of duty may feel pushed to attend work, even when they know time off is needed. On the other hand, some employers stress the importance of taking time off and have to force employees to take that time. 

Another example is an employee’s ease of being replaced. If an employee feels that he or she can’t be replaced, they’re more likely to come to work sick. Due to this, we see higher levels of presenteeism from management.

Isn’t More Employees Working The Goal?

A lot of people would think that more hours worked by employees is better for business, but this is not true. When employees are sick or ill, you’re likely not getting their very best. On top of that, it can also affect their coworkers. If someone is coming to work with the flu, you’re taking a big risk as this illness is contagious to others. If the flu spreads in the workplace, you could end up with many employees missing work at the same time.

This scenario shows how presenteeism works, illnesses such as the flu is only one of many examples we could use. If you have someone ill, they should be at the doctor or at home getting better, not at work.

Illnesses and diseases are not the only things that can cause presenteeism. If you have employees that are refusing to take time off, they can easily suffer from burnout and stress. Thanks to medical testing and technology, we now know how dangerous stress is, it can even lead to a heart attack. Employees that suffer from burnout will find it nearly impossible to provide high quality work. 

Employees that demonstrate “workaholism” usually lead to higher levels of presenteeism. These employees have a deep passion or loyalty for the company they work for. Although these employees work all the time, everyone needs time off and it becomes difficult to get them to take time off. 

How Does Presenteeism Cost Your Business?

How much can presenteeism cost your organization? A LOT!

Using survey data from the American Productivity Audit, which completed using the Work and Health Interview (WHI), the study determined that the cost of employees working when they were ill surpassed $226 billion for employers. Researchers noted that this amount was an underestimate, that total could be way more than advertised. 

According to 2 articles published in the “Journal of the American Medical Association,” employee depression cost U.S. employers $35 billion a year in reduced employee performance at work and that pain conditions such as arthritis, headaches, and back problems cost employers nearly $47 billion.

Another study done by researchers in Japan found that the monetary value caused by absenteeism was around $520 per person annually. However, that same study concluded that presenteeism was around $3,055 per year and medical expenses was $1,165. 

You can check out that study here.

Many studies have concluded the same thing, presenteeism and absenteeism can cost your company a lot of money.

How To Fix Presenteeism

Now that you know what causes presenteeism, how much it’s costing companies in costs, how can you fix presenteeism?

(1) Leadership At The Top Level – All of us want our employees to be high performers. We want our staff to produce the best results possible. If you want the very best from your team, make sure they’re fresh and healthy. This way of thinking has to start at the top level.

(2) Giving Employees Time Off – There’s a number of different ways you can give your employees time off. Paid days off, sick time and incentive days are just a few that work great. If you work in an industry where you can set your own schedule, you may be able to add an additional day off. 

(3) Give Employees Sick Time – You don’t want your employees to be encouraged to attend work when they’re sick. If they don’t have sick time or won’t get paid for the day, they may choose to come to work sick. This risk the health of your whole workplace, a risk you shouldn’t be taking.

(4) Health Insurance – If you don’t offer health insurance now, you may want to consider adding it. Health insurance is something a lot of prospects look for when seeking a new job. Furthermore, you want your employees to be healthy, this allows you to get the very best of them.

(5) Employee Wellness Program – If you’re serious about changing the culture of your worksite while also getting your employees healthier, an employee wellness program is a great way to start. 

When designed correctly, employee wellness programs can help;

  • Reduce Presenteeism
  • Reduce Absenteeism
  • Higher Productivity
  • Cutting Health Care Cost
  • Reduce Health Risk
  • Builds A Strong Community
  • Improves Retention And Recruitment
  • Higher Quality Of Life For Employees
  • Boost Employee Morale

At Kadalyst, we directly work with you to help you implement an employee wellness program built around your goals and objectives. Our simple process makes it easy to start your wellness program. If you’re ready to talk about it, click here and fill out the form.

There’s no question about it, when you have these types of solutions in place, your employees can take care of themselves. Management needs to be ok with this, let them take care of themselves, this is completely fine. You’re going to discover they will focus on working and be more productive than before.

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