Monthly Newsletter

Online Newsletter for Call Center Personnel
Rosanne D'Ausilio, Ph.D. Editor and Publisher
Volume XX, Issue 11

Date: November 1, 2009 - Presenteeism in the Workplace 

If you are unfamiliar with this term “presenteeism” don’t feel bad.  So was I when I first heard it.  According to, a website devoted to neologisms (words that have only recently appeared in our language), it is the “feeling that one must show up for work even if one is too sick, stressed, or distracted to be productive; the feeling that one needs to work extra hours even if one has no extra work to do.”

Have you had the experience of going to work when you didn’t feel well and have your boss say, “What a trooper!”?  Or had your employees come to work feeling under the weather and you’ve said to them “What a trooper!”?

Research has shown that it might be better for everyone if you just stayed home in bed instead of providing an example of “presenteeism.”

 There are all sorts of statistics about absenteeism and the associated productivity loss.  However, it’s been suggested that presenteeism may cost you more than absenteeism. 

According to research from the Integrated Benefits Institute in San Francisco, 77% of lost time for the average employee generally comes from presenteeism, with only 23% attributed to absence.  A study by the Cornell Institute for Health and Productivity said that presenteeism may account for as much as 60% of the cost of worker illness.

In 1999, the Employers Health Coalition of Tampa, Fla. analyzed 17 diseases and found that lost productivity from presenteeism was 7.5 times greater than productivity loss from absenteeism.

 What can you do? 

First, what gets measured gets managed.  If you haven’t done so, begin tracking not only absences, but presenteeism as well.  

How?  One way is to add a question on self-reported presenteeism to existing employee surveys. Also, ask employees to state their reasons for presenteeism

The British government is encouraging employers to require employees to take lunch breaks and annual holidays, and discouraging them from working long hours or taking work home.

 Second, offer flexible working arrangements such as working partly from home at certain times.

 Third, there’s a distinction between absences that are warranted and ones that are not.  There is a negative impact on productivity in both instances, but certainly if your employees are present, you want and expect them to be productive.

In the end, it all comes down to good people management.

To bring presenteeism out into the open and address it effectively, you must realize working people harder is not a sustainable recipe for higher productivity. It is far better to provide healthy working conditions that support people to work smarter.



2009 Human Technologies Global, Inc. All rights reserved.

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