Presenteeism is the threat to your company you can’t see
By Ella Wilson
“Butts in Seats” is the old-style, classroom-roll-call way to make sure your employees are on task and productive. But that system misses out on the insidious threat to your company’s productivity that costs more and that you can’t even see – presenteeism.
Presenteeism is when your employees are present in body (“butts in seats”) but their mind is absent, because of illness or other distractions. They look like they are there, but they’re not working to their full potential.
It’s hard to measure the cost of presenteeism, but the American Productivity Survey calculated that presenteeism costs the U.S. more than $150 billion every year.
Examples of presenteeism
- Presenteeism is a byproduct of a poor work-life balance. There are several different types of presenteeism, such as:
- Coming to work sick, because you’re either afraid to miss work or are not allowed to stay home.
- Working with unaddressed health issues like anxiety or chronic pain.
- Being distracted by personal life challenges or traumas, such as the care of an ill loved one, a death in the family, or financial troubles.
- Being distracted by toxic workplace culture.
- Working TOO MUCH without taking the proper rest and relaxation time to reenergize.
Presenteeism is a lose-lose situation for everyone
Being able to be absent when you’re sick, or taking care of a loved one, or on vacation, offers obvious benefits for employees. But presenteeism is just as harmful to the employee as it is to the employer. Sitting at work, staring at a computer screen, accomplishing nothing while you’re worried about something is a special kind of torture. It creates a downward spiral of worry and dysfunction, where the employee comes to work with 1 worry and leaves with 2, adding “not performing at work” to the list of things of distractions.
What you can do about presenteeism
Work has to get done. Life has to get done. The best way to prevent presenteeism is to help your employees maintain a healthy work-life balance so they aren’t sacrificing one area of life for the other.
Here are some ideas you may want to implement in your office:
Provide ample sick days – If you want your people to stay home when they’re sick so they don’t infect the whole office, you’re going to have to give them permission and resources to do so. A single bout of the flu can take more than a week to get over. And don’t forget about the workers in your office who have to take care of sick kids, too. Many people will come in to the office sick so they can save their sick days for when they “really” need them.
Provide ample vacation days – Employees who are able to enjoy a much-needed vacation or to take a few days off to deal with home issues are much less likely to experience exhaustion and burnout at work.
Allow work-from-home – Not having to take an entire day off of work to care for a sick kid or wait for the cable guy can be a huge load off the shoulders of your busy employees.
Create an engaging office culture – Ever had to “endure” a job day after day? How much of your time did you spend daydreaming of the beach instead of doing your work? Happy employees are productive employees.
Discourage working overtime, at night, or on weekends – This can be the hardest one for some employers. But allowing your employees to actually have some life between workdays is helpful to your productivity numbers. Remind your people every day that you expect good work, not MORE work, and openly encourage them to take time to deal with their lives and enjoy time away from work.