What is presenteeism?
You’ve likely heard of employee absenteeism, which can hurt your productivity and revenue. So you might think that presenteeism would be a positive if it doesn’t involve workers being absent, but it can also be a problem.
Presenteeism happens when employees are present at work but are unable to fully perform and focus on their tasks due to an illness or other medical condition. Along with physical illnesses, such as the flu or a respiratory infection, mental illnesses, such as chronic stress or anxiety, can also prevent an employee from focusing fully on their work.
This can lead to lower workplace productivity among staff. It can also spread the illness and cause others to show up sick or miss work. When employees have time to recover at home, they can come to work healthy and recharge faster.
The problem with presenteeism
Work absences are recorded, so the rates can be calculated easily. When an employee shows up to work sick, they’re still counted as being there. It can be difficult to recognize and measure the productivity losses they cost.
How to prevent presenteeism
By making a few company policy and structural changes to your business, you can prevent presenteeism and create a healthier and more productive workplace.
You can prevent presenteeism at work by following these steps:
- Set a standard of productivity
- Give employees enough sick days
- Encourage employees to take vacations
- Allow employees to make up work later
- Provide full health coverage
- Provide healthy food options
- Offer gym memberships
- Make sure leaders use their sick days
- Provide coverage
- Avoid discipline
1. Set a standard of productivity
Create a work environment where your employees’ success is based on their contributions and end product rather than time at their desk.
2. Give employees enough sick days
When employees have enough sick days, they can take the time they need to fully recover from an illness or medical condition. When an employee works while they’re sick, it prolongs their illness and they risk spreading it to their coworkers, which can result in more presenteeism.
Communicate to employees that their well-being is important. Tell them you understand that everyone gets sick, and it’s important that they rest and recover before coming back to work. Your employees will appreciate having a workplace that values their health.
3. Encourage employees to take vacations
Vacations help employees recharge and return to work ready to be productive. No matter how they use vacation time, it’s important to encourage employees to use their paid time off. By taking enough vacation days, employees reduce their stress and improve their sleep, which helps them be happier, healthier and more productive.
4. Allow employees to make up work later
If an employee needs to leave work early because they’re feeling unwell, give them the option to come in early or stay late another day to make up their work. This is beneficial to employees who experience recurring illnesses, such as migraines, since they won’t have to use their paid time off for leaving work early. By offering a flexible time-off plan, you can improve job satisfaction and help your employees recover.
5. Provide full health coverage
Look for employee health care coverage that encompasses a range of health needs. Find a plan that fully covers regular doctor visits. This makes it easier for employees to access regular health screenings that can prevent chronic conditions. Encourage employees to take preventive measures, such as getting enough sleep and exercising, to support their health. If you can, offer a plan that includes gym reimbursement.
6. Provide healthy food options
Another perk you can offer is having the office’s fridge and pantry stocked with fruits, vegetables and other healthy food options. By encouraging healthy eating, you help employees get the nutrients they need to stay productive.
7. Offer gym memberships
Regular exercise can reduce the risk of heart disease, manage blood sugar levels, promote mental health and improve sleep—all things that keep your employees happy and healthy. Gym memberships could be cost-effective for your business long-term, since your employees will feel healthier and be more productive.
8. Make sure leaders use their sick days
Employees are more likely to use their sick days if people in leadership roles use their sick time when they need to. If leaders model the behavior of working despite illness, other employees will think it’s expected of them, too.
9. Provide coverage
Some employees show up to work sick because no one else can handle their duties. This leaves crucial tasks incomplete while they’re gone, or the work might get done by someone who lacks the necessary training or skills. Cross-training team members and ensuring everyone has a backup option can encourage employees to stay home when they’re sick because they know someone else can handle their tasks.
10. Avoid discipline
Some companies take disciplinary action for employee absences. This discourages staff members from staying home when they need to, so avoid disciplining your employees for this reason.
FAQs about presenteeism
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about presenteeism:
- What is the difference between presenteeism and absenteeism?
- Can sick days increase productivity?
- How can employers promote the importance of taking sick days?
What is the difference between presenteeism and absenteeism?
Presenteeism is when employees come to work when they’re sick or have a medical condition that prevents them from fully focusing on their work. Absenteeism is when employees call out of work often, sometimes without providing a clear reason.
What are some common reasons for presenteeism?
Presenteeism stems from a work culture that values employees putting in their hours. Workplaces might experience presenteeism when employees:
- Feel they need to prove productivity by being present at work
- Need to complete tasks in the workplace
- Experience pressure to complete big projects or assignments
- Don’t have enough sick days to stay home
- Worry about disciplinary action, losing their job or missing out on promotions due to missing work
How can employers promote the importance of taking sick days?
Employers can do their part by creating a work culture that values employee health and well-being. One way to do this is by putting a sick day policy in your employee handbook, outlining when staff members should take sick days. The process involved in taking a sick day should be discrete and easy for employees, and their private health conditions should remain between the individual and their doctor.
If you notice presenteeism in your workplace, you may want to consider increasing the number of paid sick days employees can take. If employees use all their paid sick time, have a system in place for them to take additional time off if needed.