The dangers of presenteeism

It can be an employee’s biggest dilemma – should you go into the office when ill? A recent article in The Telegraph (25th August 2017) highlights the growing problem of presenteeism – a word coined as the opposite of absenteeism to describe this problem.

“Professor Sir Cary Cooper at Manchester University has referred to it as the biggest threat to UK workplace productivity, costing the UK economy almost twice as much as absenteeism.”

The causes of presenteeism are rooted in longer working hours, small work forces, and an over-commitment to work. It stems from the feeling that if you miss a day of work, your team will not be able to cope, or will not have the requisite knowledge to undertake your workload in your absence. It may seem beneficial to employers, but presenteeism can result in poorer health in general, leaving employees exhausted and more vulnerable to further illness in the future.

Although companies have been slow to recognise the dangers of presenteeism, psychologist Linda Blair recommends steps managers can take to combat it, such as setting up a ‘buddy system’ – having a partner who is familiar enough with your work to cover for you in your absence. Blair concludes that “companies that promote employee wellbeing will in the long run outperform any whose managers emphasise only productivity.”

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