Presenteeism

First published on Thursday, Jun 04, 2020

Last updated on Thursday, Mar 14, 2024

Employee health and productivity go hand-in-hand. The healthier your employees feel, the more likely it is that they’ll be productive.

However, it’s commonplace for some employees to come to work when they’re feeling sick. As an employer, you need to understand what presenteeism means in your workplace and its causes.

In this guide, we’ll discuss what employee presenteeism is, the causes, and how to be proactive in reducing it.

What is presenteeism?

Presenteeism is the decrease in productivity when an employee is working when they’re sick and not being able to balance personal life and work.

It’s important that you understand the effects it can have. Overworked employees are more likely to make mistakes on the job.

As an employer, you need to be aware of the signs of presenteeism:

  • Regularly staying later than required.
  • Drop in productivity of a normally high-performing employee.
  • Looking tired or run down.
  • Coming into work during annual leave or at weekends.
  • Continuing to do further work at home in the evening or at weekends.
  • Answering emails out of work or over the weekend.

It’s important you communicate with your staff if you see any of these signs. You need your staff to be able to switch off from work, relax and not become overstressed.

You may think absenteeism and presenteeism are the same, however, they have clear differences.

What’s the difference between absenteeism and presenteeism in the workplace?

You need to understand the difference between absenteeism and presenteeism in the workplace, as they can both have negative effects.

Absences, whether authorized or unauthorized can lead to staff shortages. This may mean a loss of productivity in the workplace, morale, and quality of work.

Presenteeism is the opposite. Presenteeism is when an employee turns up to work whilst feeling sick or working excessive overtime. Although you want commitment from your employees, over-commitment isn’t always positive.

What are the causes of presenteeism?

There are different causes of presenteeism at work. As an employer, it’s important you communicate these with your employees.

  • No paid sick leave: Lack of paid sick leave may also cause employees to come into work even when unwell so that they don't lose wages.
  • Heavy workload/tight deadlines: Fear of missing deadlines could lead to an employee working when they’re sick.
  • May feel under pressure from management: Some employees could feel they will be looked down upon if they take days off.
  • Understaffing: If employees feel stretched due to understaffing, they may come to work when it’s best to stay home. This is more common over busy periods, such as weekends or the holidays.

What are the costs of presenteeism?

There are many costs of presenteeism that can have adverse effects on your business’ output.

  • Reduction in employee productivity.
  • The potential cost of hiring replacements if required.
  • A decrease in staff morale and working relationships.
  • Reduction in employee engagement.
  • Impact on quality of service for customers.
  • A decrease in profits.

How to measure presenteeism

The following will help when it comes to measuring presenteeism in your staff. By measuring it correctly, you can take steps to reduce it:

  • Have conversations with your employees to gauge their happiness and satisfaction. The happier they are, the more productive they’ll be.
  • Understand your absenteeism rate. If your rate is low but productivity and quality of work is also low, there may be a problem.
  • Study any customer or client feedback. If employees are working sick, the quality of service they’ll provide will decrease. You can also track individual and team results to see if any patterns are forming.

How to reduce presenteeism in your workplace

As an employer, it’s important you’re proactive when you are reducing presenteeism.

Simple steps can go a long way:

  • Encourage your employees to stay at home when ill. Offer paid sick leave so that your employees don’t push themselves to come into work when sick.
  • Encourage employee wellness. Small things like an exercise hour once a week can go a long way to improving health and wellbeing in your workplace.
  • Offer flexible working hours where possible.
  • Train managers to spot signs of presenteeism, set realistic workload, check-in with staff, encourage work-life balance.

Get help with your presenteeism today with BrightHR

It’s important that you understand presenteeism in your workplace. Staff will get sick and should avoid coming into work when feeling ill. You need to encourage staff to take days off work when they’re not feeling well.

If you need assistance with your employee presenteeism, BrightHR has several tools which will make the whole process easier for you.

Our sick leave and lateness tools allow you to manage employee absences in seconds. Contact us on 18882204924 or book a demo today.


Share this article

Have a question?

Ask away, we’ve got lightning fast answers for Canadian business owners and employers powered by qualified experts.


More on leave and absence

Paternity leave

Paternity leave remains a relatively underused benefit, despite its proven advantages for both fathers and children. More countries now offer such ...

Read more about Paternity leave
Late to work

Compassionate Care Leave

Employees in Canada have a right to take a job-protected leave when caring for gravely ill family members. Each province has their own employment ...

Read more about Compassionate Care Leave
Late to work

Lateness and Tardiness

Almost all employers deal with employees arriving late to work. Your employee may have been stuck in traffic or experienced delays on public transit. ...

Read more about Lateness and Tardiness

Sick Building Syndrome

Sick building syndrome describes the combination of symptoms that affects building occupants. Some people, when they are in a particular building or ...

Read more about Sick Building Syndrome

Absenteeism Rate

Absences in the workplace are normal and staff have a right to time off. But it’s key you understand the number of absences your company has ...

Read more about Absenteeism Rate

Time off work for stress

Stress and its effect on mental health is part of many peoples lives. Your employees most likely deal with different stresses daily, some of which ...

Read more about Time off work for stress
Sick employee blowing  their nose

Sick Leave

From time-to-time your employees will require sick leave from work. As an employer, you have a responsibility to manage sickness leave ...

Read more about Sick Leave

Return to Work

Staff may sometimes have long periods of absence from work. This could be due to illness, giving birth or taking a sabbatical. As an employer, you ...

Read more about Return to Work