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What is Presenteeism?

What is Presenteeism?

What is Presenteeism?

Presenteeism is a new word that denotes an old problem; namely people who come to work, but who are not in a fit state to work productively.

Presenteeism is a play on the word absenteeism. When a person is absent from work because of sickness, then they are obviously not working productively, but presenteeism means that, just because people are present, does NOT necessarily mean they are in a fit state to work productively.

Many people show up at work when they are NOT in a physical or mental state conducive with high productivity.

What can we do to reduce presenteeism?

Presenteeism is a problem and like all problems, it has definite causes. In order to solve a problem we must first identify the causes, and implement a solution, or countermeasure for each cause.

What are the primary causes of presenteeism and what are the corresponding solutions?

Here are the primary causes of presenteeism:

  1. Poor health habits.
  2. Poor mental health.
  3. Poor work management systems.
  4. Poor company culture.

Let us look at each cause and write down practical countermeasure solutions.

1. Poor health habits.

To a large degree, individuals' health habits and choices are their own affair and it is beyond the scope of an employer's remit to give instructions on a person's personal nutritional, sleep and exercise habits.

Solutions: The employer can help with health of employees by creating a set of work conditions that support good health. For example making nutritious food available to purchase, and clean water easily accessible. In addition, good ventilation and natural daylight also provide a healthier environment.

2. Poor mental health.

Again, to a large degree, people's individual mental issues relating to self-esteem, self-image, self-worth and self-confidence, are beyond the remit of an employer.

But again, the employer can help by setting conditions that are conducive to good mental health, or they can fail to.

The solution: It is in everyone's interest for employers to take note of their staff's mental health, and to do everything possible to create conditions that are supportive of good mental health. (In order to do that, see the next notes).

3. Poor work management systems.

Stress is one of the most often cited causes of both presenteeism and absenteeism, and one of the most common causes of stress is feeling overwhelmed, caused by the massive volume of work to be done in a short amount of time.

This problem is caused by poor work management systems, or the complete lack of a systematic approach to managing tasks.

The solution is to improve "task management" and "time management" systems at all levels, (organisational, team and individual), so that nobody feels overwhelmed by the sheer volume of important tasks to be done in too short a time.

4. Poor company culture.

Poor company culture is another major cause of presenteeism. Company culture is best defined as, "the prevalent emotional atmosphere, based upon the way people are spoken to and treated, on a daily basis, whilst at work".

Some companies have a terrific culture, but others do not. Poor company culture means that the emotional atmosphere is hostile, fearful, or depressing, because it has become the cultural norm for people to be spoken to harshly, or sarcastically, or treated unfairly.

The effects of a bad company culture will permeate into the soul of every person in the team and will become a major cause of presenteeism.

The solution: Is to notice whenever the company culture is wrong, and to immediately initiate training for the team leaders and managers, designed to help them adapt their approach to leadership and management.

This new approach will create a new, more positive atmosphere, which to be based upon the proper use of language, proper task management, and treating people in a kind and fair manner.

When all the above solutions are implemented, then the problem of presenteeism will mostly disappear.

About the Author: Chris Farmer


Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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