Workplace Fundamentals: Presenteeism

Dr. Purushothaman
December 5, 2013

In the fast-paced world of modern work, the term "presenteeism" is gaining increasing attention. While absenteeism has long been a concern for employers, presenteeism is a hidden problem that can affect employees and organizations equally. This article will explore presenteeism, its growing concern, and how employers can address it to create healthier and more productive workplaces.

Understanding Presenteeism

Presenteeism refers to employees coming to work when they are not physically or mentally well enough to do so effectively. It's the opposite of absenteeism, where employees are absent from work for illness or other reasons. While the intention behind presenteeism may be to show commitment to the job, it often leads to negative consequences.

The High Cost of Presenteeism

  1. Decreased Productivity: When employees come to work while sick or burnt out, their productivity inevitably suffers. They may need help focusing, making more mistakes, and taking longer to complete tasks, which can impact overall team performance.
  2. Health Implications: Presenteeism can have serious health consequences for employees. Ignoring their physical or mental health needs can lead to prolonged illnesses and more severe conditions, making them even less productive in the long run.
  3. Spread of Illness: Employees who come to work when they should be at home recovering from an illness can also spread infections to their colleagues, leading to a cycle of sickness that affects the entire workplace.

Root Causes of Presenteeism

  1. Job Insecurity: In today's competitive job market, employees often fear taking Time off due to worries about job security. This fear can lead them to work through illnesses or personal difficulties.
  2. Pressure to Perform: The pressure to meet tight deadlines and high expectations can push employees to prioritize work over their well-being. They may feel compelled to prove their dedication by showing up even when unwell.
  3. Lack of Work-Life Balance: An unhealthy work-life balance can contribute to presenteeism. Employees who feel that their personal lives are neglected due to work demands may choose to stay at the office rather than address individual needs.

Addressing Presenteeism

  1. Promote a Culture of Well-being: Employers should encourage a culture that values the well-being of employees. This includes recognizing and rewarding employees who prioritize self-care and taking Time off when needed.
  2. Flexible Work Arrangements: Offering flexible work arrangements, such as remote work or flexible hours, can help employees better manage their personal and professional lives, reducing the need for presenteeism.
  3. Provide Health Resources: Employers can offer resources like Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and access to mental health support services to help employees manage stress and address health concerns.
  4. Normalize Time Off: Encourage employees to take their allotted vacation days and sick leave when needed. Managers should lead by example and avoid sending emails or making work-related demands during employees' Time off.
  5. Communication and Training: Promote open communication between employees and managers. Training programs can help employees recognize the importance of self-care and provide strategies to manage their workload effectively.


Presenteeism is a concerning issue that can undermine productivity, harm employee well-being, and create an unhealthy work environment. To combat presenteeism, organizations must prioritize a culture of well-being, provide resources for employees to manage stress and health concerns, and promote open communication about work-life balance. Employers can create a more productive and healthier workplace for all by addressing presenteeism.

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