Absenteeism vs. Presenteeism

Absenteeism vs. Presenteeism

By Ally Vastano, Content Writer, EnvisionWell


Bored employee stares at computer screenAbsenteeism and presenteeism are the two largest employee productivity concerns facing employers today. While they are sometimes lumped together, they are actually two very different issues.

Absenteeism is defined as the unplanned absences that occur when an employee is sick, for instance, or dealing with a family emergency, or too depressed or anxious to make it into work that day. According to existing research, absenteeism cost employers $1,685 per employee each year.

Presenteeism, on the other hand, is when an employee is present but unproductive – disengaged. There are a myriad of reasons why this problem occurs such as mental stress, burnout, work overload, chronic physical pain, or a toxic work atmosphere. The total cost of presenteeism in the United States is estimated to exceed $150 billion a year. Jobs that pay hourly or have little leeway for sick days or paid time off suffer even more presenteeism since they promote a work culture where being absent is penalized.

It is impossible to completely eliminate absenteeism or presenteeism. After all, things happen – people get sick, family emergencies are real and unexpected, and stress can get the better of even the best of us at times. However, there are ways to help reduce both absenteeism and presenteeism in the workplace, thus reducing cost, increasing productivity, and creating a healthier work culture overall.


Top 5 Strategies to Decrease Absenteeism and Presenteeism


1. Measure and Examine the Current Situation

Every workplace is different, and different strategies for reducing presenteeism may prove more effective than others depending on the circumstances. To help identify the best strategy, employers should measure and examine their current situation. What are their absenteeism rates? Are there regular drops in productivity for some employees, potentially as a result of practicing presenteeism and not taking time off when needed? Could workloads be too high, resulting in employees not being able to take time off to complete everything? An anonymous survey among employees to gauge their opinions and beliefs, as well as their engagement and satisfaction, can be highly effective for understanding which factors to address. Click here to learn more about Envision2bWell’s KSAA® Assessment, a proprietary assessment tool to help employers gauge and understand employee engagement, satisfaction, and well-being.

2. Change Policy

Man holding a sign that reads "Do you offer an employee wellness program?"If too many employees are practicing presenteeism in the workplace, especially at the cost of their own health and wellbeing, it may be time for a change in policy. This can include a shift towards more flexible work hours or an increased emphasis on paid time off or sick days, to encourage employees to take time off when needed. A shift towards focusing on results (such as projects completed) rather than time spent on work may also prove beneficial.

3. Make Employee Wellness a Top Priority

It cannot be denied that employee health and well-being – physical, mental, emotional, financial – contributes greatly to rates of both absenteeism and presenteeism in the workplace. Companies that institute robust and engaging workplace wellness programs will see a drop in both, as well as healthcare costs. Healthcare costs diminish by about $3.27 for every dollar spent on employee helath and well-being. Learn more about the EnvisionWell workplace wellness solution and platform here.

4. Promote a Culture of Wellness

Company culture is derived from both direct and indirect actions. Company policy, for instance, is a direct action. Having a good PTO policy, for example, helps create a culture of wellness. Hearing a leader in the company verbally say that employee wellbeing is a top priority and that it’s OK to take a day when you are unwell or extremely stressed is also a direct action. But if that same leader turns around and praises employees who work extra hours, even going so far as promoting them above others, then those indirect actions undermine anything that is direct. To create and promote a culture of wellness, leaders must align both their direct and indirect actions.

5. Be the Change

Image reads "BE THE CHANGE"It is crucial that employers and supervisors set a good example and lead the way. One example would be to leave when they are finished for the day, rather than start a new project just for something to do for the last hour of work. Another would be to take a day off when they are feeling burnt out and need a moment to unplug from it all. Of course, this needs to be done with respect to the needs of the team, so people or projects aren’t left stranded, but if the leaders in an organization use their PTO responsibly, it gives permission to employees to do the same. On the flip side, if they promote a work culture where you ‘suck it up’ and come in to work no matter what, they create a culture that is more vulnerable to irresponsible absenteeism, as well as increased presenteeism.


Final Thoughts

Companies that experience high absenteeism and presenteeism typically also experience high turnover rate. Organizations that improve absenteeism and presenteeism using these 5 strategies will cultivate happier, healthier, and more engaged employees.




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