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Understanding Presenteeism and Why It Matters to Organizations & Employees

Would your organization prefer to have a sick person at work rather than miss a day? If so, then it is time to rethink why it is probably not a good policy for your business and staff.

About Presenteeism

Presenteeism describes when a person is physically present at work but performs at a reduced capacity with “decreased productivity and below-normal work quality” for a variety of reasons, generally related to illness.

Unlike absenteeism, presenteeism is not always readily apparent. It is easy to know when someone does not come to work, but it is often difficult to know when or how much an illness or medical condition negatively hinders someone’s performance. Illness has the potential to impact the quality or quantity of work an individual can perform including increased mistakes or slower activity.[i]

According to one recent study, employees take an average of four days off per year for sick time but admitted to being unproductive an average of 57.5 days a year![ii] Quite simply stated, people do not do their best work when they do not feel well.

Negative Consequences

In addition to increased errors and mistakes plus lost or reduced productivity at work, there are other negative consequences for the individual as well as other employees and customers.

First, when an employee fails to take a sick day or days, the person may not recuperate properly, getting sicker or taking longer to get better.

Second, employees who go to work sick endanger public health by putting the health and productivity of other workers – as well as customers and the public – at risk. The impact of spreading disease can result in more people getting sick at work, missing more days, or allowing illness to spread throughout the organization.