Combatting Presenteeism At Work

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Combatting Presenteeism At Work

sick employeePresenteeism is when employees come into work even when they have a justifiable reason to be absent, such as a physical or mental illness. Absenteeism occurs when employees don't show up for work. Presenteeism is largely an issue of workplace culture. Take the right steps to combat presenteeism at your organization.

Model behavior

When leaders and managers show that they are comfortable taking sick leave or mental health days as needed, others will do the same. Encourage them to take time off, share studies on the benefits of rest, and be sure to model this behavior when you get sick. Normalize taking time off.

Update your policies

It may be time to review your policies to make sure they are well defined and up to date for in-person and remote employees. Educate them about situations that would qualify them for a medical leave of absence or FMLA. Policies like these often pay for themselves in increased productivity.

Provide psychological safety

Workers should not be discouraged from using their sick days or be reprimanded when doing so.  Employees often worry that taking time away from work will result in a mountain of expectations waiting for them when they return. Normalize downtime.

Presenteeism isn’t as easy to measure as absenteeism, but it can be done.  It can be measured in:

  • Lost productivity
  • Spreading of illnesses
  • Impact on morale
  • Taking little or no time off
  • Camera off in virtual meetings
  • Withdrawn at work
  • Increase in missed deadlines or mistakes
  • Arriving to work or logging in late

Some companies have considered or implemented some programs to help:

  • 4-day work week
  • Limited after-hours employee emails
  • Policies that cap working hours
  • Wellness programs that support both mental and physical health
  • Flexible work hours
  • Employee Assistance Programs
  • Health Savings Accounts
  • Lifestyle Spending Accounts
  • Employee Resource Groups

Presenteeism does not mean your employees are disengaged at work.  They are showing up but need the permission to make their well being a priority.  Create opportunities for employees to build connections with each other such as through social events, affinity groups, and initiatives that are accessible to all employees. Learning to spot the signs of presenteeism will create a healthy culture and bottom line.


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