1/28/07

Presenteeism is making organisations sick

Presenteeism is making organisations sick

Professor Cary Cooper, a psychologist specialising in organisational management at Manchester University, coined the word “presenteeism”. He used the word to illustrate that workers are not necessarily productive at work.

According to Cooper, “The phenomenon of ‘presenteeism,’ an overwhelming need to put in more hours or, at the very least, appear to be working very long hours, is another dangerous symptom of the explosive degree of pressure in the workplace.”

That word “presenteeism” in the present day has now morphed to mean “the feeling that one must show up for work even if one is too sick, stressed, or distracted to be productive; the feeling that one needs to work extra hours even if one has no extra work to do.”

The productivity loss has assumed worrying proportions today. Employees report to work sick and are unable to discharge their duties efficiently. They just go through the motions.
This drains away the benefit of having them at the workplace.

Added to this, these sick employees while interacting with their healthy colleagues manage to infect some of them. The result, another batch of sick workers turn up for work sick resulting in productivity taking a huge hit.

Reuters report that the “So-called "presenteeism," or going to work when sick, is a persistent problem at more than half of U.S. workplaces and costs U.S. business a whopping $180 billion a year.

Like its more notorious counterpart absenteeism, it takes on growing importance as employers try to keep an eye on productivity and the bottom line.”

A CCH survey cited a number of reasons why employees report to work even though they are not fully fit. The reasons include “wanting to preserve precious vacation time, saving sick days for later in the year and even company loyalty. But the No. 1 reason for “presenteeism” in the office is the fear of missing deadlines.”

There is also an element of insecurity involved. Sick employees feel that if they do not turn up for work, they may be considered as slackers and their future in the organisation may be compromised.

The banking organisation Comerica did a health study to understand this phenomenon of “presenteeism” in their organisation. Their study revealed that organisations could control the productivity loss due to “presenteeism” by making a small investment in screening, treating and educating their employees.