Is your Business Suffering with Presenteeism?


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Presenteeism has become somewhat of a buzz word in the HR world but what does it actually mean and how can you spot the signs?

Simply put it is the opposite of absenteeism, which is when there is a high level of absent staff from a workplace. In contrast, presenteeism is a term which describes employees who are physically at work but are not giving it their all mentally. This could happen for a number of reasons including being ill but choosing to come to work or being disengaged. It even relates to employees who undertake too much overtime.

Presenteeism is a huge threat to productivity and can be hard to spot. Unlike absent employees, those who are “too present” could be hiding in plain sight.

The long term impacts of presenteeism don’t just affect your business, it can also have a detrimental effect on the wellbeing of your staff so it is important that you take a closer look at your operation to try and uncover if there’s an underlying issue.

What are the signs of presenteeism?      

The most obvious sign of presenteeism is low productivity and/or producing work of a poor quality.

It is also common that these employees will make silly mistakes due to poor attention to detail but that they seem apathetic about their work and targets.

Their appearance could also be a give-away. Do they look exhausted, are they making less effort than usual in how they present themselves or do they appear to be ill?

Spotting the signs of presenteeism relies on managers paying genuine attention to their team members.

What causes presenteeism?

There are many things that contribute to presenteeism at work.  As a business leader, it’s important to ensure that your internal culture isn’t contributing to a companywide culture of presenteeism. The first step is to identify these factors and then make changes to refocus the mind set of your workforce.

An unrealistic workload or targets, strict sick leave policies, attendance based incentives and oppressive managerial styles all contribute to presenteeism. Generally speaking, these factors all promote a culture in which people feel guilty for being absent or not achieving overly challenging targets, which ultimately leads to staff having higher stress levels, low self-worth and more likely to reach burn out, all of which could result in long term absence from the business.

How to combat presenteeism

Action has to come from the top in order to reduce the level of presenteeism. Review your company’s policies and consider the long term impact on your staff.

It is sensible to develop a policy around presenteeism and sharing this with your employees to make everyone aware that you are actively trying to reduce it, with their best interests in mind. The policy could involve a specific statement on the rules around not coming to work ill, so that everyone knows where they stand.

Encourage regular employee feedback on a variety of workplace issues that affect them so that you have your finger on the pulse when it comes to any negativity. This means you can take quick action before that negativity festers and spreads among your workforce.

Ultimately, as an employer you have a duty of care to your employees’ health and wellbeing but taking steps to counter act presenteeism has many positive effects on your business.

Not only will your workforce be more engaged and productive, you’ll also be more in tune with the overall morale which demonstrates to your staff that you care.

We explore many topical workplace issues in our blogs which you can find here.