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Presentheism: what is it? Consider whether you ever went to work despite being ill? Colds, joint or spine pain? If so, even several times, you are part of a relatively new phenomenon, which is presenteeism, which briefly defines the arrival of a sick employee to work. Let's follow this problem below.


  1. Presenteeism, or why the sick come to work
  2. How about presenteeism in your work?
  3. How to counteract presenteeism?
  4. How to deal with pressure from your boss?

Presenteeism(prestent - presence) is a phenomenon that describes the presence of a sick employee who, despite the disease, decides to take up his duties anyway, which results in a deterioration of his effectiveness and productivity in the workplace. When we talk about employee diseases, we do not only mean common colds, flu, toothache, joint pain or stomach ailments. Lower productivity is also associated with diseases such as depression, migraine, allergies, and even diabetes. According to research by scientists dealing with the phenomenon of presenteeism, the efficiency of a sick employee can drop by up to 40%!

We know how we feel when we are sick, in a certain indisposition, often related to pain. Our work efficiency drops, we have a problem with concentration, we are broken, and our thoughts go far, especially on topics not related to the duties entrusted to us. In addition, there is a difficulty in controlling the nerves, because we (for example) have a spine pain.

Of course, we make mistakes more often, and in customer service we do not focus on the subjective treatment of the applicant (client). Instead of resting at home, we worsen our he alth, and thus - the quality of life. If left untreated, the disease escalates, intensifies its effects, and the time needed for convalescence is disproportionately longer. When we are sick, our work is ineffective and ineffective. We can also expose ourselves to inter-worker conflicts, because let's go all the time irritated, tired, indisposed and, of course, we infect around us … And it all adds up to the working time. Working time in the workplace.

Presenteeism, or why the sick come to work

Scientists who studied presenteeism, C. Hansen and J. Andersen, divided thesereasons for three basic groups:

1.The employee is very involved in his work and cannot imagine his absence, so he comes to work despite his illness, because he feels so much needed there and appreciates it so much (likes!) his job.

2.The second factor relates to personal motives, often related to finances and family life. An employee often develops a fear of absenteeism related to the fear for their workplace. The fear of exposing themselves to the boss and of losing their jobs, forces many people to turn up despite pain or illness. Sometimes, when a person is dissatisfied with their personal and family life, the vortex of work just escapes because work is the only way out (place) to get away from problems at home.

3.The last group refers to purely professional, forward-looking factors. No matter if you are sick, you have a project deadline hanging over you, so you are just "forced" to show up at the workplace. Time pressure, punctuality, deadlines very often determine our choices during illness. Added to this is an important issue: when we are still at work, we have control over what is actually happening in it, we are not missed by anything, and in the eyes of the boss we are perceived as those who can always be counted on (employee of the year, it's just a pity that what he sees in front of him through the swollen conjunctiva).

How about presenteeism in your work?

One of the tools to study presenteeism is the Stanford Presenteeism Scale (SPS-6). The employee determines the dimensions - sentences describing the impact of well-being and he alth on work during the last month. Of course, the respondent is asked to state the degree to which he agrees with a given statement. However, to get the most objective results, it is best that the surveys are carried out by an external company, made up of professionals in this field, and it is important that the surveys are completely anonymous. The user is asked to specify to what extent he agrees with the following statements (I very much agree, I agree, I find it difficult to say, I disagree or I disagree very much). Based on the answers, the person conducting the research can determine whether the person is dealing with presenteeism.

Stanford Scale of Presenteeism:

1.My he alth problems make it much more difficult for me to cope with stress at work.

2.My he alth problems did not prevent me from carrying out my tasks.

3.I did not feel / felt the joy of work due to my he alth problems.

4.I felt / felthelpless / helpless at work because of my he alth problems.

5.At work, I was able to concentrate on achieving my goals despite my he alth problems.

6.Despite my he alth problems, I feel like I have enough energy to finish my job.

How to counteract presenteeism?

Presentheism as a phenomenon may have negative effects in the form of a significantly reduced productivity of employees. Failure to perform properly assigned tasks, committed mistakes, apparent presence - all this causes losses to the organization, the kind that may result in even weaker financial results of the company (!), But remember that the company's money is to some extent your money, your salary or financial gratification. Weaker financial results, and your paycheck? Tell yourself the rest …

There is no single effective method against presenteeism, but the fact that we should start with is to diagnose the problem. Very often, business owners, managers, and managers do not even know how this phenomenon affects the work of their organization. Therefore, it is necessary to determine whether the problem exists at all and only then implement the appropriate action. But what can be done in practice?

Pro-he alth policy - we vaccinate against the flu (!)

A great example is the introduction of a pro-he alth employee policy, such as various he alth packages, with wide access to flu vaccinations and work with psychologists, nutritionists and physiotherapists. Of course, in terms of prevention, various types of training and lectures on he alth-related topics, and even specific supplementation of employees (like a tea break, only with a hyperdose of vitamin C) count here.

Work-life balance

Let's also remember about introducing balance in our lives, i.e. about work-life balance. It is worth taking care of every aspect of it - a balanced diet, adequate sleep time, active time after work (physical activity, sport), thanks to which we can take better care of he alth and thus prevent certain diseases.

If you can, work remotely from home

In some situations, where possible, let the sick employee, who is obviously mentally fit, work from home using a telephone and laptop. Sometimes customer service can be done without a direct visit.

How to deal with pressure from your boss?

Very important: employers must not pressure employees to report to work despite being ill. If you're in that position or not better, using concrete arguments (in the spirit ofassertiveness) explain to the supervisor the threats posed by a sick employee at work?

Seemingly, for some employers, the less an employee uses L4, the better. This is very wrong thinking, because the costs of an untreated disease are much higher than those related to the temporary, short-term absenteeism of an employee. Of course, let's not abuse these situations, you should always keep a balance in everything, but remember that there are no irreplaceable people. Each of us must be able to heal ourselves in order to return to our duties fully functional. Untreated disease lasts much longer than the one nipped in the embryo.

Presentheism has another major effect. A sick worker who comes to work instead of recovering at home "brings" viruses with him and effectively alienates his colleagues. So it is best for him and his associates to stay at home and take care of his he alth. I must also mention that a sore person who cannot bend down due to nagging back pain, through his reduced energy and negative emotions, negatively affects the atmosphere and mobilization of the team at work.

To sum up: are you sick? Stay at home. Take care of yourself. Do not use phantom presence at work. Communication on the employee-supervisor line is very important here, and a good manager will always understand that a sick employee means lower productivity and work efficiency. And remember about a he althy lifestyle.

Also read

Who is a workaholic and how to relax as a workaholic?

Examples of muscle strengthening exercises - you can do them at work!

Can you plan your vacation?

Where to report and how to prove mobbing at work?

About the authorKatarzyna Płuska-SkoczylasSpecialist in social communication and human resources management, author of the website "Softly about competences" and creator of many expert publications: articles, e-books, online courses in social and professional skills; education manager, inactive sales department specialist. Graduate of MA studies in "Social Communication and Self-governance" (Adam Mickiewicz University) and postgraduate studies in "Human Resource Management" (Lodz University of Technology). Creator of the publication "Employee evaluation system", publishing house "Problems of human resource management in the organization of the 21st century" - collective work edited by Józef Penc (Łódź 2007). A type of industrious extrovert; soft skills lover - soft skills and human resources.

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