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Have you practiced presenteeism?

You are probably thinking, what on earth is presenteeism and how would I know if I have done it?  Well I bet you have and if you are like most employees, you do it more often than you should.  Presenteeism is when an employee shows up to work, even when they are sick, thus infecting everyone else.  They also tend to not be as productive as they would have been had they stayed home, gotten better, and returned to work full strength.  Now you see why I said you have done it.  Let’s face it we all have. 

I heard this term the other day when speaking to the CEO of Healthiest Employers, Rod Reasen II.  Healthiest Employers is a research company which focuses on wellness.  They have a proprietary measure of an organization’s approach to wellness and highlights the healthiest employers in cities across the country, along with providing trends and data on best practices for wellness. 

When I was reading about presenteeism, the term was generally defined in a wellness setting.  However, I did see one or two definitions that had an employee engagement component.  I think that makes sense, how many employees today are exhibiting these same behaviors, or lack thereof (lack of productivity, infecting everyone else around them with a bad attitude) because of their lack of loyalty to the organization and their general bad attitudes?  I have found anywhere from 20-30% of employees are Trapped, meaning they are not engaged to the organization but are going to stay, while another 30-40% are At-Risk for leaving.  I would think these two types of employees would be littered with employees mastering the art of presenteeism. 

I just finished a study surveying almost 2,000 Indiana residents on their outlook for 2011.   73% surveyed feel company sales will increase in 2011, 68% says customers spending will increase in the next six months, and 71% feel there will be an increase in need for products/services, however only 40% are going to increase hiring (more info on this will be released mid-to-late January).  Combine this with employee engagement levels at some of the lowest I have seen in years and this leads to an extremely disgruntled workforce, even more than we have seen in years.  

So what can you do?  Well this goes back to things I have been saying for years.  Focus on your employees by asking how they feel about the work environment and what could be improved, and then act on this results.  I believe one of the best things employers can do is to provide a future for the employees and give employees the tools, training, and opportunities to move up in an organization.  Companies that can do this are going to have employees that are going to be willing to stick with the company as things turn around and be instrumental in the success of the organization.  Those that do not are going to have a hard time digging themselves out of the recession. 

Want to know what I find most ironic about this?  As I write this, I have been suffering from a cold for three days, at work all of those days.  

About the Author

Chris Woolard

Chris Woolard

Chris is responsible for the sale, design, implementation, account management, and consulting for his clients’ employee and customer assessment programs. He focuses on employee loyalty consulting and is considered Walker’s employee loyalty expert. He has worked with many companies on customer due diligence solutions.

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0 thoughts on “Have you practiced presenteeism?

  1. It is disappointing how a few bad attitudes can contaminate a work environment. Conversely, it is impressive how a micro-culture can change with a few ‘leaders’ at the bottom of an organization.

    In my department a number of individuals have raised the bar, by expecting more of themselves through work performance, networking inside the company and improving the image of professionalism with internal clients. These changes have not been prompted by management, although are appreciated by management and have improved the results of the workplace environment survey. Understandably, this is a anectodal and should be taken with a grain of salt, but employee value could be more dependent on the employee than the employer.

    You foresee disgruntled workforce in the near term, however could needing more out of your employees through an increase in demand actually cause him to feel more valued and secure instead of disgruntled? I’m a bit of an idealist, not an expert and recognize data likely does not support my hypothesis.

    Get well soon…

  2. Paul,

    Great comment, thanks for posting. To answer your question, I think employees could feel more valued assuming the workload does not become overwhelming, they understand how the increased workload positively impacts the company, it is line with their career goals, and they receive some sort of recognition (could be a thanks from a boss, or something more tangible). Unfortunately, I think organizations too frequently just dump the work on the employees without helping them understand the bigger picture.

    I love the initiative your department has shown to improve image and professionalism. I agree, employees do have some responsibility in the equation and should be taking more initiative in the employee-employer relationship.

    Thanks for reading.

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