How to Reduce Presenteeism

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Presenteeism occurs when employees are unable to complete their jobs due to mental illness or health issues but still show up for work. A culture of presenteeism is caused by a lack of absence policies and penalties. Presenteeism reduces productivity, which costs businesses money and harms employee health.


What Exactly Is Presenteeism?

Presenteeism is the loss of work productivity that occurs when sick employees arrive at work but are unable to perform their duties due to their illness. Some employees will report to work—virtually or physically—even if they are physically ill, have mental health issues, or are suffering from chronic illnesses. Employees who are absent from work try to increase their productivity, but they are unable to contribute physically or mentally to the workplace.


What Causes Presenteeism?

Presenteeism costs US employers billions of dollars each year. Presenteeism is most common in workplaces that do not encourage work-life balance or do not have a sick leave policy.

Presenteeism is also prevalent in workplace cultures with high levels of job insecurity. Employees may refuse to take time off because they are afraid of losing their jobs or will not have the same opportunities for advancement.


What Are the Potential consequences of Presenteeism?

Presenteeism has a high cost in terms of employee health, lost productivity, and other factors. Presenteeim can:

1. Influence other team members: Employees may be required to assist those who are unable to complete their tasks.

2. Reduced productivity: Employees who show up because they feel obligated to do so will not work to their full potential. This lost productivity leads to missed deadlines, longer project timelines, and poor worker output quality.

3. Worsen employee health issues: When a sick employee tries to work through their illness, they fail to prioritize the rest they require to address the problem. Employees who are sick stay sick for a longer period of time. Furthermore, when a physically ill employee arrives at work, the illness can spread from one person to the next, causing a public health problem.


Difference Between Presenteeism and Absenteeism

In contrast to presenteeism, which occurs when an employee arrives at work while sick, absenteeism is an unscheduled absence. Absenteeism occurs when a worker is forced to miss work due to a family emergency or an unexpected situation. Employees who engage in presenteeism are physically or virtually present at work but unable to perform their duties as usual.

How Can Presenteeism Be Reduced?

Presenteeism, unlike physical illness, is frequently imperceptible. As a result, managers must work to alter company culture, increase employee engagement, and modify workplace policies. Among the methods for reducing presenteeism are:

1. Change the company culture. Allow employees to discuss chronic conditions and health issues in the workplace. Provide training to employees and people in positions of authority on how to better understand workplace health. Train managers to recognize the symptoms of mental health conditions such as stress so that they can assist employees. This is a significant step toward de-stigmatizing mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

2. Embrace remote work. Working productively does not have to take place in an office. Allowing employees to do remote work whenever possible can boost morale and help them maintain a work-life balance. Employees who can work from home and have flexible hours can more easily work around illness. It also helps them avoid making others sick.

3. Boost employee morale. Employee retention is much higher in companies with high morale because these employees value their jobs and look forward to going to work. Create an open communication culture in your organization by encouraging employees to ask questions and provide feedback. Encourage employees to take lunch breaks during the workday where they can disconnect from work (rather than eating lunch at their desks), consider enforcing a weekly no-meeting day, and plan regular activities to help employees take a break.

4. Handle the issue. Some people avoid taking sick days because they cannot transfer their work to other employees of the company. Examine each person's responsibilities and make changes to ensure that the business can continue even if someone is absent unexpectedly. Examine your current strategies to find ways to reduce overall job stress. Examining workplace policies and workflow will increase employee engagement and help to build a more resilient organization.

5. Provide wellness resources and programs. Display your concern for your employees' physical and mental health by providing wellness resources such as health education classes, fitness and meditation sessions, and counseling. These resources will motivate your employees to prioritize their health and a more balanced work-life balance.

6. Encourage the use of sick leave. Some employees avoid taking medical leave because they are concerned about losing opportunities for advancement. Inform them that this is not the case. Instead, make sure that employees understand their sick leave rights and that you have a flexible sick leave policy that covers both physical and mental health issues. Managers should encourage sick employees to take sick leave and set a good example by taking sick days when necessary.

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