Companies are well aware of the cost of health insurance, absenteeism or short or long term disability, but not as familiar with presenteeism.  Yet I would guess everyone is familiar with the co-worker sitting in the cubicle next door that is, hacking, sneezing, sniffling or complaining about their aching back.  We know that person is not doing their best work as they are not fully ‘present’, hence, presenteeism.

A more specific definition would be, the cost to an organization due to employees showing up for work, but not being fully engaged and productive due to personal health and life issue distractions.

A few of the most common health-related causes of presenteeism include:

  • Allergies
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Any cancer
  • Depression/sadness/mental illness
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension
  • Migraine/headache
  • Respiratory infections.

Life issue factors would be:

  • Financial troubles or ‘credit stress’
  • Child/eldercare
  • Divorce/family problems
  • Employer/employee conflict
  • Workplace conditions, temperature, lighting, air quality, communications.

Why should companies care about presenteeism?

First, the loss of productivity shows up as

  • Additional time on tasks
  • Decreased quality of work
  • Impaired executive function
  • Lowered capacity for peak performance
  • Decreased quantity of work completed
  • Impaired social functioning
  • Decreased motivation

Second, there is a linear relationship in the progression of presenteeism through to long term absence. The results of presenteeism precede the employee being absent, then workers compensation, and short and long term disability follow over time. Companies who address presenteeism may be able to circumvent more expensive long term medical or abesenteeism issues.

Hopefully presenteeism is now on your radar.  In future blogs we will address the financial impact of presenteeism and share steps companies can take to combat it.

Valorie Bender, Wellness Program Coordinator, AdvancingWellness