Presenteeism at the Workplace: Physically Present, But Not Counted

February 23, 20171:03 pm1235 views

Employee absenteeism surely costs huge amount of money for businesses. But how about those who are sick and still dragging their feet to work? Have you ever found that your employee seems like under the weather, yet they force themselves coming to work?

To simply put, presenteeism is when your employee shows up at the office looking like a zombie. Physically though present, their minds are somewhere else. Be it owing to physical illness or psychological reasons, presenteeism can cost you multiple times more than absenteeism. When employees are not in their best state, it will directly affect their performance and lead to decrease in productivity. If you think that presenteeism is not a big deal, well, it actually is.

Recent Virgin Pulse survey presents a dreadful finding – Each year, the total cost of absenteeism in USA, UK, and Australia is $150 billion. However, this number is nothing when compared to the $1,500 billion that companies lose due to presenteeism. The statistics do not end here.

Presenteeism does not only cost employers dollars, but also productivity. The research counts that employees lose at least 4 days due to absenteeism. While for presenteeism, average employees lose up to 57.5 day. It means that in almost 3 working months, employees cannot showcase their best performance at work.

See: How Can Organisations in Asia Use Analytics to Improve Workplace Productivity?

Humans cannot function as tireless and emotionless robots. There is a strong connection between body and mind. At some point, psychological challenges like stress will affect everyone’s health, including when they are at work. Be it mental breakdown due to the loss of beloved ones or physical injuries because of car accidents, unexpected incidents do happen to every employee.

Given the circumstances, no wonder that there are times when an employee’s ‘idle mode’ is activated. Rather than blaming the employees, it would be wiser for business leaders to find a way out of solving the issue. It is part of employer’s responsibilities to create a supportive company culture for the sake of building a solid and resilient team.

One of the efforts that can be done by the company to avoid loss from presenteeism is by paying closer attention to the employee’s’ condition. If one day you notice your employees with dark circles under their eyes, yawning in their cubicles, this might indicate that they suffer from sleep deprivation.

This condition does not only become a huge distraction, but also makes them lose focus and lower their awareness. Declining performance such as coming late, falling asleep during work hours, or increase in conflicts with co-workers should be seen as red-flags indicating that your employee is  in their lowest working state.

So, is there a way to tackle presenteeism? The answer will be both ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Presenteeism is more difficult to measure because it is subtler.  There is no exact reason or symptoms why people end up being unproductive, when they are actually at work the whole time.

Gallup survey points out that wellness impacts employee presenteeism. Compared to general health care expenses, the cost paid by companies for presenteeism due to poor health condition is much higher.

While there is no quick fix for presenteeism, Virgin Pulse survey notes that there should be work-life balance for every employee. The graph presented in the research highlights that when well-being increases, presenteeism will decrease. This is the area where employers should take concrete action to promote better work-life balance and create healthy and convenient workplace setting. When employees are happier, healthier, and less stressed, this will boost bottom line of business and provide direct advantages to the company as well.

Read also: How Sleep Affects Productivity of Business Leaders?

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