We have heard this phrase many times in our life: Showing up is 80% of the work done. Although it may be true for almost everything in life, it comes with a caveat. Showing up well and good is 80% of the work done but showing up ill and disturbed can have a negative effect on the productivity. And this phenomenon is known as 'Presenteeism'. Simply put, Presenteeism is the state of showing up at the workplace without being productive or mindfully present due to many factors such as health, illness, etc. 

It becomes very difficult to identify presenteeism at the workplace because employees don't make their discomfort evident but we know it exists. Everyone, at least once in their lifetime, must have dragged themselves to work despite of them not feeling well or even up for it. In fact, Monday blues is also a mild form of presenteeism. In order to understand what presenteeism actually is and how it affects the workplace productivity and mood, it's important to understand the scope of the impact first.

Presenteeism in numbers - And why you should care

A BBC Study has revealed a UK survey that shows that 80% of workers said presenteeism existed in the workplace, with a quarter of them saying that it has gotten worse since the pandemic. This is a huge number to fathom, especially when you run some numbers on the productivity and its affect on the bottomline. 

This phenomenon has also creeped into the 'work from home' era where physically going to work has become a bit of a contributing factor to presenteeism. According to an ADP study, 54% of the employees felt obliged to physically come to work post pandemic. They would rather stay home and work than come to office. Again, this becomes a big contributing factor to presenteeism. 

 A report from the Work Foundation, also talks about the monetary costs tied with presenteeism. The report states that the cost of presenteeism in the workplace could account for one and half times the cost of sick leave. This shows that the segment of work that's lost to absenteeism is dwarfed when compared to the productivity that's lost to presenteeism. 

The American Productivity Audit estimates that decreased productivity due to presenteeism costs the US economy more than 150 Billion US Dollars every year. In Japan, it costs their economy 3055 US Dollar per employee every year. So there is no denying that presenteeism exists and is eating up a big chunk of costs silently and gradually without letting anyone know. It is only when you sit down to look at this as a problem and solve it for good, you (as an employer) realize that presenteeism has been eating into your books since the inception of your organization.

3 ways to solve presenteeism once and for all

Now that we have seen how rampant of a problem this could be, all is not lost. The faster we understand this problem, analyze the depth of seriousness in our organization and come up with action plans & policies to tackle these, it will become more and more easier to push presenteeism out of your organization once and for all. And that's the best of this, you need to take action against it only once and it will be gone for good as long as you maintain your policy changes and the rollout of your POA.

So let's have a quick look at best 3 ways on how you can tackle this in your organization:

Identify the symptoms

Often times, employees will not talk openly about their mental health but it'll still be evident from their facial expressions, behavioral changes, etc. Also, weekly pulse surveys help you quickly identify such irregularities in the mental wellbeing of the employees. Long story short, it's important to understand the mental state of your employees in order to catch presenteeism before it amplifies into something big and expensive. Mentally ill or tired employees will emanate a drop in their productivity which only gets worse and worse with time and this becomes a primary reason for presenteeism. It's very important to identify and fix such issues as early as possible.

Have the right HR policies in place

Most important piece of puzzle would be the HR policies that run in your company. Leave management policies that focuses only on sick leave partially represents health related productivity losses in your organization. If you need to understand the full picture, you need better leave policies in place. No wonder, many companies enforce a mandatory paid time off so that all employees feel refreshed and rejuvenated to join back the workforce. If your company has strict PTO policies, a good recommendation would be to ease them off a bit and encourage people to go out and and freshen up a bit.

Reward the employees for the right thing

Whom do you consider as your ideal employees? People who show up early and leave late? People who always show up to work with minimal leaves? People who show up despite of sickness and illness? If you get the drift of where this is going, you probably now realize that such employees will slowly eat into the productivity of the overall organization. This is a primary reason of attrition and burnout and the faster it is addressed, the better for your organizational culture. You can also see here on a unique way to reward your employees.

Presenteeism is an age old problem that has now come to light. Solving it once and for all is not easy but the buy-in from the stakeholders is equally crucial. I hope this article shed some light on the impact and consequences of presenteeism and took a small and yet significant step in fixing this problem.