Worse Than Absenteeism: What to Know About Presenteeism

Every employer knows the costs of an employee being absent for long periods. But what you probably aren’t aware of is the fact that there are also costs to employees coming to work consistently — even when sick.

The Presenteeism Phenomenon

Presenteeism is a term used to refer to the common practice of employees reporting to work even when they’re physically ill or fatigued. Just consider this: when an employee struggling with mild food poisoning still came in for work, you can only expect that person to crawl and limp from the bathroom to their desk all day, with work half accomplished, if not none at all.

What’s worse is if the illness is contagious, such as the common colds. They’ll be sneezing and coughing their way through meetings, passing illnesses one handshake after another. It won’t be surprising if you see your entire team coughing at each other in the next two days.

The situation takes an entirely new level when you have open-floor layouts, as the germs travel freely from one desk to another. Health experts in California also say that in a public setting, such as an open-plan office, the body’s fight-or-flight mode is always on, which affects the immune system, making employees more at risk for illness.

This doesn’t mean though abandoning the open-plan office is the solution. It just means that it’s better to encourage employees to take their leaves when sick and take precautionary measures to ensure that your environment is clean.

One way to do the latter is to have your workplace sanitized by an office cleaning company; San Diego experts such as Forte Commercial Cleaning use specialized equipment that will ensure you have a squeaky-clean workspace.

The Culture of Being Always-Present

A large part of this presenteeism phenomenon comes from the mentality that business competition is cutthroat, and therefore hard work is not only admired, but required.

There’s mostly nothing wrong with having this culture of determination in the workplace. But sometimes, it sends the wrong message to employees — that they can’t be absent or when they do take a break, they will be silently punished with other employees’ judgment about their non-commitment to their job.

It is then important to communicate expectations to employees about them working hard and taking a break when sick. Encourage determination at work, but dismantle the work-until-you-drop-and-die culture.

Presenteeism has serious costs for your business. Your employees are your best assets, so their health and happiness should be your priority.