What is Presenteeism?
Presenteeism is when an employee attends work when they are feeling sick or unwell, rather than taking a sick day. It is the exact opposite of an employee who takes a day off work when there is nothing wrong with them.
Most companies don’t show a careless attitude towards employees pulling sickies, but many do not consider the impact that presenteeism may have on their business.
How Can Presenteeism Affect Business?
Presenteeism can have just as much of an impact, if not worse, on business than absenteeism can have.
Consequences of employees turning up to work sick include:
- Loss in productivity – sick employees do not focus fully on their tasks, as they try and manage their symptoms. This results in less work being completed, and a decreased quality of work.
- Poor physical and mental health – you need rest to recover from illness. Trying to force yourself to work through illness can lead to exhaustion and take mental strain, often leading to future days of absence. Occupational injuries are also more likely to occur if operating machinery for instance.
- Epidemics in the workplace – in cases of infectious illnesses, presenteeism presents opportunity for illness to spread throughout the workforce, providing a much wider problem.
Why Do Employees Come to Work Sick / How Can Employers Deal With Presenteeism?
With laws and company policies in place to say sick days are allowed, why do some people feel the need to come to work? And how can employers deal with this?
- Fear for job security
A fear that sick days will count against them when it comes to redundancies or promotions may drive some people to come to work sick.
As a company, it needs to be made clear that the occasional sick day will not be held against employees or used as a deciding factor when it comes to redundancies and promotions. Employees should be encouraged to take time off to rest when unwell in order to be better equipped to work more productively upon return.
- They can’t afford not to
Those who don’t get paid sick pay, such as employees on zero hour contracts, may not want to miss out on the pay packet.
Employers should reassure these employees that the hours lost can be made up in overtime or extra work at another time. They should be reminded that coming to work sick can have further problems down the line as they make themselves more ill and unable to work at all.
- They love their job
Some people just can’t bear to be away from their jobs, whether its holiday or sick leave.
Employers should let them know that they appreciate their enthusiasm, but that they will be more help to the company by getting some rest when they need it and coming back to work more productive.
- The worry of not being believed
Some employees may feel ill at an “inconvenient” time – the day after a holiday, or birthday for instance. The worry is their employer will be suspicious of a sickness absence.
If they’re sick, they’re sick. If an employee is too ill to be at work, they shouldn’t be there regardless of any suspicion raised. Employers could ask for proof of illness to erase suspicions.
- They consider themselves indispensable
An employee may feel their presence in the workplace is too important to the company to take a sick day.
If a company were to struggle without an individual for a few days, it is not a very well run business. The employee should be politely reminded that although they may be a valuable member of staff, the company is perfectly alright without their presence for a few days, and would benefit a lot better by having a healthy workforce.
Presenteeism can have a negative impact on employees and businesses as a whole. However, the issue is entirely preventable if dealt with correctly. Companies need to consider presenteeism just as much as they would absenteeism in the workplace, to ensure maximum productivity and employee and business health.