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Presenteeism: At Work No Matter What

Presenteeism: At Work No Matter What

 

Presenteeism echoes to absenteeism, the worst fear of employers. Measures implemented by companies to end this phenomenon are countless.

What is Presenteeism?

Presenteeism can be defined in different ways. Usually, this term is associated with employees faking work. It can be due to a lack of implication or just people who have finished their task but still pretend to be busy.

However, in academic papers, presenteeism only refers to employees going to work despite feeling physically or mentally ill. It is important to differentiate a lack of involvement or commitment with presenteeism.

 

Context

How can presenteeism be explained? Multiple causes can be involved, often conflicting.

Indeed, companies’ internal management can sometimes lead to a rigid working environment: unreachable objectives, lack of monitoring, bad workload estimation, and so on. However, presenteeism is also a consequence of the current labour market: fear of unemployment, lack of work safety, stress, etc. Scared about losing their job, not being able to hold a deadline or showing weaknesses, employees keep on pushing their limits further. According to Statistic Canada, 40% of depressed workers did not take any sick day within the last year!

In fact, this phenomenon is less frequent in places with low unemployment rate or in a unionized sector. Sometimes, the pressure comes from employees themselves: solidarity, loyalty, high sense of responsibility, etc.

 

Negative Impact

The physical presence of an employee does not ensure a high performance”¦ Indeed, physical or mental illness will lower employees’ productivity. Moreover, once the tolerance threshold is reached, employees will need a longer time away to recover.

Surprisingly, presenteeism is more detrimental than absenteeism: an SSQ study showed that a first case of presenteeism costs 9,9 days per year to companies, and 7,1 for the second case! Prejudice is not only measurable in terms of productivity and days off, but also in terms of working atmosphere. Indeed, someone depressed, tired and in pain can have a negative influence on the rest of the team.

 

How to Avoid Presenteeism

First, companies need to work on their values and reflexes.

As long as work absences will keep being associated with laziness, a lack of involvement or a lack of stability, employees will continue going to work despite their health situation. Similarly, unless an open-minded and trusting environment is built, employees will keep hiding behind a fictional work.

Therefore, it is crucial for employers to encourage communication and implement solutions. This involves changes in terms of organization, working time distribution (teleworking, flexible schedule, etc) and tasks allocation.

Change also implies a new corporate culture: soft change management, work appreciation, support from the direct hierarchy, decision margin. Indeed, psychological and physical well-being are closely linked. In short, employers need to understand that, when needed, a leave from work will improve employees’ productivity on the long term.

How do you think presenteeism can be avoided? “

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