Presenteeism is being present at work when stressed or ill or being present at work for more hours than is required. The word is now better known but not necessarily taken into account as a serious problem. Figures usually focus on absenteeism, and current trends show that although sickness absence is falling, this could because of a rise in presenteeism, not a higher number of healthy employees.
As we have seen in a previous blog, studies show that working more than 40 hours a week actually decreases productivity and if you keep doing it for more than three or four weeks, your productivity then turns negative. I think we can all figure out by ourselves how that is going to be even worse if working when sick!
European Occupational Safety and Health at Work estimate that presenteeism cost 1.5 times more than absenteeism and represents a loss in productivity of 33%. Yes, Sitting at your desk from 9 am to 5 pm (or more!) does not mean you are productive. You could just be staring at your screen with your brain in complete fog! Of worse, trying to get things done with that same brain fog and ending up having to re-do it all or having someone else pick up the pieces of a complete disaster. We are actually more efficient when we are focused and we set up specific time to do something. So just thinking you can stay in late to finish that last task is not necessarily going to equal better results.
With reasons like having too much work, not being paid while being absent, feeling guilty and that it is frowned upon in the organisation, employees end up being more worried about being present than about infecting co-workers and spreading their germs to the whole department. When it is shown that presenteeism can prolong illness, spread diseases and cause stress in the workplace, this is definitely a bad move for the company.
So what is to be done? Some companies have successful implemented strategies that have proved very efficient:
- Making your company policy on sickness absence clear, and communicating the different options available to staff should they become unwell for an extended period of time.
- Being generally more flexible, allowing work from home (less time wasted on transport), flexible hours, part-time…
- Concentrating on output rather than input, sometimes referred to as the Results Only Work Environment: focusing on the job done, not how it is done, measuring results, not hours. In his TED talk on the subject of motivation, Dan Pink explains: “In a ROWE people don’t have schedules. They show up when they want. They don’t have to be in the office at a certain time, or any time. They just have to get their work done. How they do it, when they do it, where they do it, is totally up to them … What happens? Almost across the board, productivity goes up, worker engagement goes up, worker satisfaction goes up…”
- Giving staff unlimited unrecorded time off while giving incentives on results and productivity, not time spent in the office. Like the French company Chronoflex where each employee is paid a bonus on their own performance and the company’s performance, while being free to get organised as they like. After implementing the policy last year, the company’s turnover has shot up 15% and they have started hiring again.
- Using technology at work - 13 June 2016
- Connecting to your inner productivity - 31 May 2016
- The one-minute break secret - 19 January 2016
- Burnout or not burnout, that is the question! - 17 November 2015
- Not stressed enough? - 13 October 2015
- Taking performance to the next level - 30 June 2015
- Presenteeism: the virtually absent worker - 10 June 2015
- Work-minded or mindfully aware? - 11 May 2015
- How to use technology and not let it use your employees - 28 April 2015
- A mindful day at work: what does it really mean? - 8 April 2015