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Please Go Home: The Problem Businesses Face with Presenteeism

What keeps business owners up at night? Many would say sluggish productivity or escalating expenses. An employee coming to work every day usually does not make the list. But a staff member who never takes a day off can cause problems by showing up sick, distracted, or too stressed to be effective. There is a name for this problem: presenteeism.

What is the issue?

The premise of presenteeism is simple. Employees who are not feeling well — for whatever reason — do not perform well. They may:

  • Work more slowly
  • Struggle concentrating or making decisions
  • Take more frequent breaks
  • Make more mistakes
  • Need to repeat tasks until they are completed correctly

But it may not end there. When employees come to work while suffering from communicable diseases, such as a cold or the flu, the problem can grow exponentially. One worker coughs on two people who get sick, and they cough on four people who get sick, and so on.

Is there a cure?

Because presenteeism can stem from a gamut of sources, companies must be on guard for dips in productivity. When one occurs, managers should know how to discuss the matter with the potentially affected employees.

Your benefits program may hold the key. Both the employee and your organization may be better served if the worker takes advantage of available benefits — such as paid sick days, an employee assistance program or leave of absence — that will help him or her deal with the outside stressor causing presenteeism.

It is also important to emphasize wellness. Many companies now offer formal wellness programs to encourage actions such as engaging in exercise, getting an annual physical, and learning about healthy living.

What is the number?

It is much easier to detect presenteeism when you are measuring productivity. Choose the right metrics and do not underestimate this potentially costly threat to your profitability.

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