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For many years, employers have paid special attention to absenteeism at work.

However, an understudied phenomenon plays a major role in hindering employee performance and quality of work:  presenteeism.

Presenteeism means that an employee is present, but in such a state that it is impossible to perform at full capacity. In some cases, it would even be preferable to stay home. This situation can be more harmful than the absence itself.

It is also recognized that absenteeism and presenteeism go hand in hand, with similar causes and origins. These causes are related to psychological or physical health factors.

For example, among workers suffering from depression, 40% have never been absent from work.

As with absenteeism, presenteeism substantially increases costs.

Employers are thus faced with a dilemma: should they encourage presence at work, and if so, how far should they go?

Because being present – without really being there – can have serious consequences for the workers' health.

A worker facing difficulties regarding presenteeism does not always recognize the situation. The warning signs appear gradually.

The main warning signs of difficulties are:

  • Deadlines not met
  • Lower productivity
  • Lower quality work
  • More frequent absences and lateness
  • Difficult interpersonal relations when they were good previously
  • Behavioural changes, such as irritability or social withdrawal
  • More frequent forgetfulness

Presenteeism can have its share of significant effects in a company, particularly …

  • A decrease in general productivity, usually caused by performance problems, loss of motivation, relationship problems and conflicts, recurring absenteeism;
  • An increase in drug insurance premiums;
  • An increase in the expenses for the administrative management of all of these problems.

How can you prevent or intervene in case of presenteeism? These are two very important questions.

On the individual level, when an employee seems to exhibit one or more of the signs mentioned, it is important to take time to meet with the employee and try to have a better understanding of what is happening, without falling into making a value judgment.

Be open to suggestions and criticisms, even under the cover of anonymity.

Ensure that the workplace climate is not too tense: a work environment can be both friendly and professional!

On the organizational level, if the company detects that the warning signs of presenteeism are present, it must be able to take actions such as reviewing:

  • its corporate culture,
  • its management style,
  • its workplace climate,
  • and the organization of work.

Don't be afraid to take action. But before jumping in, you must take your time, analyze the costs and weigh the pros and cons of the long-term effects on your company.

Presenteeism is a very real problem in modern business.

It's now up to you to reduce its effects and create a healthier and more productive workplace climate!

To find out more about this topic, we suggest you read the reference document.

In case of any questions, doubts or a specific need for support, don't hesitate to contact the specialized support service offered to the eligible individuals.