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  • Helen Manson

The Problem with Presenteeism


Definition: the practice of coming to work despite illness, injury, anxiety, etc., often resulting in reduced productivity.

Sound familiar?

The problem of 'presenteeism' seems to be reaching new heights, with more than nine out of ten employees dragging themselves into work despite being ill, according to a survey by Canada Life.

Most workers (76 per cent) said the reason they did so was because they didn't think their illness was 'serious enough' to warrant time away.

Around a third forced themselves to their desks because of workload, and a fifth said it was because colleagues would make them feel guilty for being off work.

But a significant number also said they came to work ill because they couldn't afford to take time off (20 per cent), or because of the threat of redundancy (13 per cent).

More than a third said they would prefer to use annual leave if they had to rather than take sick leave, because of the perceived negative impact it may have on their employment record.

So what can employers do to improve productivity and reduce presenteeism?

The key to managing presenteeism is to lead by example. Sounds obvious, but in order to achieve the desired outcome, managers have to behave in the way in which they want their team to behave.

Turning up to work when you're unwell could be considered selfish and counterproductive. However, if managers are doing it, so will their team.

If you're sick, you're sick. Employees should not be given brownie points for turning up to work when they're ill, spreading their germs around and failing to achieve any meaningful levels of productivity just because, for whatever reason, they can't bring themselves to stay away from the office.

And so the solution is two fold - 1) encourage employees to take responsibility for their own health and well being and 2) lead by example.

If you would like assistance in developing an effective absence management process for your business, please contact us for a free consultation.


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