Examples of Presenteeism in the Workplace

As you move your business further, you will be looking at means of developing a knowledgeable, skilled and healthy team that is capable of producing your desired results in the years to come. Absenteeism and absence management may well be something that is on top of your priorities, but how about presenteeism?

Presenteeism is becoming an increasing phenomenon in many workplaces around the world. While human resource professionals are celebrating the fact that absence rates are kept flat, other business experts are speculating that presenteeism is costing companies billions every year, which is much more compared with that of absenteeism. In fact, human resource practice observers are already seeing an iceberg effect, where absenteeism (the more visible portion of work loss) is dwarfed by presenteeism (the portion beneath the iceberg surface). One big reason for this is that, although presenteeism is more prevalent, it is also not easy to account for.

There is a plethora of reasons why your employees would resort to presenteeism, and one of the most important is your employees being worried about their job security. Another relative reason is that they might feel pressured by their peers; if they feel they are judged or criticized by their colleagues, they will be compelled to report to work when unwell. And with their individual workloads ever increasing, they would feel they cannot afford to take any time off regardless of their state of health.

In the beginning of the 20th century, it was good practice to be present despite being sick, as doing otherwise could compromise an entire line of production. But now, things have changed swinging to the opposite direction, where employees should be allowed to take time off when they are not feeling well not to suffer unfavorable consequences in the long run. However, to make it work, you have to know how to manage it and wisely use your resources. To deal with presenteeism, you should first know its forms. Here are some of its examples:

1. People Are Coming To Work Despite Being Ill.

In case you are not familiar with the term, presenteeism basically defines the practice of employees to report to work despite being ill and not performing to their usual productivity level. In the US, the total cost of this practice has been increasing and is about 60% of the total expenses of worker illness.

There are many unfavorable effects of presenteeism, and one of them is sick employees being likely to infect others, particularly co-workers and possibly clients. In careers, such as nursing, and industries, such as food service, a sick staff member can definitely spell disaster. He can infect other people and compromise food safety, just to name a few consequences.

2. People Stay At Work Beyond The Time Needed For Effective Performance On The Job.

There are times when your employees needed to extend their working hours or even stay up late to cope up with their targets. While many people do not see this as a significant form of presenteeism, it is. This can even result to consequences that make the affected employees sick, thus leading to the more obvious form of presenteeism that is people coming to work despite being ill.

3. People Go To Work Despite The Lack Of Love And Devotion To The Job.

This is another unapparent form of presenteeism. As you might know, some of your people might just be present because they have to earn money and not really passionate about the tasks they are assigned to. This can be detrimental to your bottom line, as these people might not perform optimally.

Ways to Deal with Presenteeism

  • Change your organizational culture. Particularly, you might want to remove your aggressive absence policy and replace it with a more trusting one.
  • You can counter hints of criticism from co-workers, so your employees will not feel coerced into going to the office when they are, in fact, not feeling well. Your employees should not be judged on the number of days they are present or absent at their stations.
  • Focus on people’s well-being, which is increasingly being incorporated into workplace and human resource strategies to eliminate the effects of stress and sickness, as well as allow individuals to focus on their tasks.
  • Make sure you place adequate procedures and policies to ensure there won’t be anything to discourage your people from taking a sick leave. They should be free to take a day off without being concerned of their absence’s impact on their job security.
  • You should set yourself as a good example. Well, this means that if you are sick, you should not be present as much as possible. Of course, the same rule should be applied to everyone in your company.
  • You can change mind-sets, so it will be clear with every one of your employees that if, he is unwell, he should not be at work.
  • You can offer flexible working arrangements, like working from home, to give employees a temporary but suitable working environment for their needs. Research shows that that these arrangements can actually improve employee output levels, while reducing stress at the same time.
  • Have a meaningful dialogue with your employees, as this will be able to let you detect and pre-empt presenteeism issues, as well as appropriately deal with them should they arise. You should also learn to be empathetic to your employees, so you will be able to find out how an employee is feeling. Remember that, while physical ailments can be easy to spot, psychological symptoms can be more difficult to pinpoint.
  • Provide cross-training to your employees to cover different business functions. This way, one can do another’s work should the latter is absent. Also, this would raise empowerment levels and allow employees to learn new skills.


Presenteeism, along with absenteeism, is sure to be a hot topic in the years to come. We can just look forward to see whether a shift in culture or mindsets can stop staff members from feeling the need to report to work despite not being physically fit to do so.