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Presenteeism – When Employees Are at Work but Just Not Present

Published September 15, 2016 (last updated December 3, 2020) -

Ever woken up and felt like you were coming down with sickness but could not justify staying home? Many workers in today’s vigorous workforce feel that they must not call in sick or ask for personal recuperation. The key reasons for this are that New Zealanders feel they could lose their job, cannot financially afford to miss work or do not want people to know about their high stress levels or personal mental battles.

Presenteeism is the term used for unproductive attendance at work and when employees show up feeling sick, are contagious or are not in a healthy state of mind. A study published in BMC Public Health defines presenteeism as ‘being present at work, but limited in some aspects of job performance by a health problem’. There is an assumption that just showing up at work makes you productive. However presenteeism means employees are not performing at optimal levels but show up anyway to conform to a particular workplace culture, or because they cannot afford to lose the pay, or worse, their job.

A survey completed in Sweden by Dr Aronsson concludes that the main culprits of presenteeism is largely to be found in the care and welfare, education sectors, nursing and midwifery professionals, registered nurses, nursing home aides, compulsory school teachers and preschool/primary educationalists. All these groups work in sectors that have faced personnel cutbacks during the 1990s.

High proportions of persons with upper back or neck pain, fatigue or depression are also found to be among those with high presenteeism.

The prevalence of presenteeism is said to increase with the aging workforce and employers need to be vigilant when reassuring their staff that it is ok to take sick leave. With this foreseeable increase, it is time for employers to implement ways to protect a business’ productivity and financial longevity.

If you would like to discuss presenteeism, Employsure can offer you advice on 0800 568 012. If you feel that you may have staff members coming to work and not being present we can assist you in encouraging sick leave, diagnosing existing problems and creating an accommodating and encouraging workplace culture. By implementing policies and procedures, particularly leave, businesses will experience a more productive work environment.

About Employsure

Employsure is one of New Zealand’s largest workplace relations advisers to small and medium businesses, with over 5,500 clients. We take the complexity out of workplace legislation to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

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