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5 Ways to Combat Presenteeism in the Workplace

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As we all know, sometimes employees can't make it to work due to illness or other reasons. 

But have you ever heard of presenteeism? 

This is when an employee shows up to work but is not productive due to ill health. It's a common occurrence, but many employers don't take it seriously. 

Truth is, presenteeism can be just as damaging as absenteeism.

Some people think that employees who come to work while sick show dedication, but in reality, they are likely to be ineffective and may make errors that cost time and money to fix. 

Research shows that the productivity lost to presenteeism is often greater than that lost to absenteeism. In fact, presenteeism can cost companies one-and-a-half times as much as sick leave.

Employees who come to work while sick are also more likely to take sick leave in the long term. 

Employers who notice an increase in presenteeism are more likely to report an increase in stress-related absences and mental health problems among staff. 

woman african american business freelancer portrait sick

Effects of Presenteeism in the Workplace

Presenteeism may seem like a minor issue, but it can have a significant impact on your organization. It not only affects the well-being of your employees but also your company's bottom line. This section will discuss in detail the three major effects of presenteeism: reduced productivity, increased absenteeism, and negative impact on employee health.

Increased Absenteeism

Contrary to what some may believe, presenteeism can actually lead to more missed days of work. 

When employees work while sick or burned out, they are more likely to experience a worsening of their condition, which can result in extended absences. 

In addition, presenteeism can lead to the spread of illness to other employees, resulting in a higher number of absences overall. 

The cycle of presenteeism and absenteeism can be costly for your organization in terms of lost productivity, increased healthcare costs, and reduced morale.

Asian businesswoman feeling sick tired from work asleep at the office desk.

Reduced Productivity

Presenteeism has been linked to reduced productivity in the workplace. When employees show up to work while sick, stressed, or fatigued, they are less productive than they would be if they were healthy and well-rested. 

Reduced productivity can be caused by physical symptoms such as pain, discomfort, or lack of focus, or by psychological factors such as anxiety or depression. 

Negative Impact on Employee Health

Perhaps the most significant impact of presenteeism is the negative effect it can have on employee health. When employees work while sick or exhausted, they put themselves at risk of developing more severe health problems down the line. They may also be more likely to experience workplace injuries or accidents, further jeopardizing their well-being. 

Presenteeism can also lead to a culture of overworking and burnout, which can contribute to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

5 Ways to Reduce Presenteeism in the Workplace

So, what is the root cause of presenteeism?

Presenteeism is more common in companies where long working hours are the norm and where operational demands take precedence over employee well-being. 

It's also often a sign of job insecurity and is significantly related to redundancies. Organizations that are expecting layoffs in the coming months are twice as likely to report an increase in presenteeism.

Properly managing presenteeism can save companies money in the short and long term, as well as improve employee engagement and productivity. Here are 5 ways to help you reduce sickness presence in your company:

In some workplaces, employees who work even when they are ill are viewed as dedicated and hardworking. 

However, this attitude can lead to reduced morale and negative impacts on employees' physical and mental well-being. 

Companies should make it clear that they expect sick employees to stay home and recover. By doing so, they demonstrate that they prioritize employee health and create a healthier work environment.

Absence management policies that focus solely on sick leave do not provide a complete picture of an organization's health-related productivity losses. 

Instead, companies should develop comprehensive policies that account for presenteeism as well. Punitive sick leave policies may discourage employees from taking time off when they need to, leading to absenteeism being replaced with presenteeism. 

3. Evaluate Your Company's Well-being Program

Poor employee financial well-being can account for a 4% reduction in organizational productivity. Therefore, it is essential to consider the social, physical, mental, and financial stressors faced by employees both inside and outside the workplace. 

A strategic well-being policy that offers appropriate support can help reduce the impact of presenteeism. Programs that promote exercise, counseling, financial management, and access to consultations for common conditions like sleep disorders and allergies can help prevent illnesses and reduce the impact of long-term conditions. 

Employees who experience health problems, particularly mental health-related issues, often feel unable to disclose them to their managers. To promote a healthy work environment, companies should train their managers to recognize the signs of stress and mental health issues and provide support to employees in a supportive and non-stigmatizing manner. Additionally, workplace training and awareness-raising programs can reduce the stigma associated with mental and physical health issues and promote a better understanding of workplace well-being.

5. Address Workload Demands and Communication

Heavy workload demands can cause employees to avoid taking time off when they need it because they worry about deadlines or overburden their colleagues. 

Line managers should facilitate effective workload management, communicate regularly with their employees, and provide them with the necessary support to minimize work-related stress. 

Soft skills training can help managers promote positive working practices and employee well-being.

How an Intranet Solution Can Help with Presenteeism

An intranet can be a valuable tool in combating and reducing presenteeism in the workplace. 

Presenteeism is a common problem that can lead to reduced productivity, increased absenteeism, and negative impacts on employee health. By incorporating presenteeism awareness and prevention tools into the intranet, employers can promote a healthier workplace culture and reduce the negative effects of presenteeism. 

Here are a few ways an intranet can help combat or reduce presenteeism:


Throughout this article, we've learned that presenteeism is a pervasive problem that can lead to reduced productivity, increased absenteeism, and negative impacts on employee health. Causes of presenteeism can include job demands, workplace culture, and health and well-being issues. 

To address presenteeism, employers can create a supportive workplace culture, encourage work-life balance, promote employee health and well-being, provide flexible work arrangements, and address job demands and workload.

Reducing presenteeism is essential for employers and employees alike. By addressing presenteeism, employers can increase productivity, decrease absenteeism rates, and improve the overall well-being of their workforce. 

Employees who are healthy, rested, and engaged are more likely to perform at their best, take fewer sick days, and be more satisfied with their jobs.

If presenteeism is an issue in your organization, it's time to take action. Start by identifying the underlying causes of presenteeism in your workplace and developing a plan for addressing them. Communicate with your employees and let them know that their health and well-being are a top priority. Monitor progress regularly and make adjustments as needed.

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