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What is Presenteeism?

Pam Blair

BY Pam Blair /

We all know what absenteeism is and how costly it can be for businesses. But have you heard about its far costlier cousin, presenteeism?

Essentially, presenteeism is working while sick. It's when employees aren't fully functioning in the workplace because of an illness, injury, or other condition. They may be there in body, but not in heart or mind. Presenteeism can cause a loss of productivity, poor health, exhaustion, and even workplace epidemics. It costs the US economy more than $150 billion each year. Most studies confirm that presenteeism is far more costly than absenteeism or disability. In fact, productivity lost on the job due to illness and/or depression is three times more costly than that which results from absent employees.

Presenteeism can be hard to manage, because it's a gray area. Those who fall into the presenteeism bucket typically are dealing with something chronic, like migraines or back pain, or they could be facing personal situations like family, financial, or legal issues that are hard to talk about and medically deal with. They can have a hard time focusing at work or may have a tendency to "escape" into their job. Whatever they may be dealing with, it doesn't allow them the energy to focus on getting better. This is why it's imperative to take care of you first and foremost.

From the very beginning of the on-boarding process, it's important to establish a connection with associates on an individual level...

From the very beginning of the on-boarding process, it's important to establish a connection with associates on an individual level so that they feel valued as a human being and not like they are a number. The best leaders create an environment where their associates feel comfortable saying something when they are not feeling or doing well. These leaders also know when to bring to their associates' attention that they might not be living up to expectations or achieving job success, and offer support and resources to assist them.

It's important to invest in workplace wellness to help combat presenteeism. Wellness isn't just about eating right or exercising, it's also about maintaining a positive mental outlook, financial stability, a sense of community, and happiness. It's not enough, however, to have a wealth of wellness offerings at work if no one is aware they exist. Communication is key. You have to constantly talk about what you have to offer. Be open-minded and think about the overall associate experience, rather than viewing it one-dimensionally, and watch as presenteeism becomes easier to manage.

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Pam Blair

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pam Blair

Pam Blair is Executive Vice President of Human Resources for Continental Office. She has over two decades of human resources experience in different industries, including manufacturing and staffing.

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Tags: All Areas, Workplace Wellness

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Great Spaces Magazine - Fall/Winter 2018

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