Presenteeism: Everything You Should Know About It!

At some point, most of us have experienced it — you’re at your desk, feeling exhausted and unproductive, yet you feel like you can’t take a break or leave the office. Welcome to presenteeism—the notion that one must be physically present at work but not necessarily productive or efficient in their duties. In this blog article, we will explore the reality of presenteeism and what can be done to combat it and create healthier workplaces.

What is Presenteeism?

Presenteeism is the tendency for employees to come to work when they are sick. This can be due to several factors, including a sense of obligation to the job, a fear of losing their job or simply not wanting to use up their allotted sick days. Therefore, coming to work sick can seriously impact both the individual and the company.

For the individual, working while sick can prolong the illness and make it worse. It can also lead to exhaustion and burnout. And for the company, presenteeism can lead to lower productivity, increased mistakes, and a higher risk of accidents.

So why do people do it? In most cases, it’s because they feel like they have to. A 2017 survey by Aflac found that nearly 60% of employees said they would go to work even if they had the flu. Of those, 34% said they would do so because they couldn’t afford to miss a day, and 26% said their boss expects them to come in no matter what.

Clearly, presenteeism is a problem that needs to be addressed. If you’re an employer, talk to your team about the importance of staying home when sick. Let them know that you value their health and well-being above all else. And if you’re an employee, don’t be afraid to take a sick day when needed.

presenteeism women

The Causes

There are many causes of presenteeism, including when employees come to work despite being ill. Some causes are personal, such as a fear of losing one’s job or not wanting to use up all of their sick days. Others are cultural, such as a workplace that doesn’t encourage employees to take time off even when they’re sick. And still, others are structural, such as a lack of paid leave or childcare options.

Often, it’s a combination of these factors that leads to presenteeism. For example, an employee who doesn’t have paid leave and can’t afford to miss a day of work because they’ll lose pay may come in even when they’re sick. Or an employee who fears retribution from their boss for taking time off may suck it up and power through their sickness.

Whatever the reasons, presenteeism is a serious problem that can lead to decreased productivity and decreased morale in the workplace.

The Effects

When employees come to work sick, it can create several problems for the individual and the workplace. This is known as presenteeism. Here are some of the effects of presenteeism:

1. Productivity decreases when employees are working while sick. This is because they are not able to focus and perform at their best.

2. The quality of work decreases when employees are working while sick. This is because they cannot give their full attention to the task.

3. Employees who come to work sick can spread their illness to others, leading to more absences from work. This can have a ripple effect on productivity and morale in the workplace.

4. Employees who come to work sick often end up taking more time off in the long run due to their illness becoming worse or recurring. This defeats the purpose of coming into work sick in the first place.

5. Finally, presenteeism can create a negative culture in the workplace where employees feel like they have to come in even if they are sick. This can lead to burnout and resentment among staff members.

Paul Spector

How to Combat Presenteeism

When it comes to presenteeism, employees are often their own worst enemies. They come to work sick or don’t take time off when they should, spreading illness and reducing productivity. There are a few things employers can do to combat presenteeism:

1. Encourage employees to stay home when they’re sick. This means having policies that allow employees to stay home without feeling penalized.

2. Promote healthy habits. This includes encouraging employees to vaccinate, eat well, and exercise regularly.

3. Offer flexible work arrangements. When possible, allow employees to telecommute or have flexible hours to better manage their health and wellness.

4. Provide access to on-site health services. This could include offering flu shots to providing access to a gym or fitness center.

5. Educate employees on the importance of taking care of themselves. This includes things like not coming to work sick, getting enough rest, and managing stress levels.


Employees need to be aware of the risks that come with having employees working. At the same time, they are unwell or not at their best, ensuring that any measures taken to reduce absenteeism do not inadvertently increase presenteeism. Employees should also take responsibility for their own well-being and ensure they get adequate rest to remain productive in the workplace.

Also read: Complacency in the Workplace: Beat It!

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