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Revealing Presenteeism's Impact: The Hidden Sabotage Within Organization

Presenteeism can affect organizations in various ways, including a decline in productivity and profitability. This article is focused on revealing presenteeism’s impact on organizations.

Revealing Presenteeism's Impact on Organizations

Photo by Vlada Karpovich/Pexels

Presenteeism is when employees are physically present at their workplace but are not fully engaged or productive due to various factors such as illness [1] [2] [3], stress [1] [2], personal issues [1], or lack of motivation. Unlike absenteeism, where employees are absent from work, presenteeism involves individuals showing up for work but not performing at their optimal level.

In a presenteeism scenario, employees may appear to be working, but their productivity and efficiency are significantly reduced. They may be distracted, fatigued, or dealing with health-related issues that hinder their ability to focus and contribute effectively. This can have negative consequences for both the employees and the organization as a whole.

Reports by WHO and Gallup World Poll

World Health Organization estimates that 12 billion working days are lost yearly due to depression and anxiety, which amounts to US $1 trillion annually in lost productivity globally.

Employees who are not engaged or are actively disengaged cost the world US $ 8.8 trillion in lost productivity, according to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2023 Report. That is equal to 9% of the Global GDP.

Only 25% of employees in Nepal were found to be engaged in their job

Presenteeism often occurs when employees feel compelled to come to work despite not being in their best condition. Factors such as job insecurity, fear of negative consequences, excessive workload, and a lack of work-life balance can contribute to presenteeism.

Additionally, employees may feel obligated to be physically present even when they are not fully productive due to cultural norms or pressure from supervisors or colleagues.

One study revealed that presenteeism was more prevalent among employees who handled persons (74%) than those who handled objects (65%) or symbols (70%). The primary justification for presenteeism among employees handling people was “I do not want to burden my colleagues,” while the most common reason for presenteeism in the other two categories was “Because nobody else can carry out my responsibilities.”

A significant contributor to presenteeism is the decline in memory, concentration, attention, executive functioning, processing speed, and cognitive flexibility among employees. These cognitive functions are essential for optimal performance and productivity in any work environment. However, when they become compromised due to external factors or internal health conditions, employees may struggle to maintain focus, retain and process information, and complete tasks effectively.

The impacts of presenteeism due to reduced cognitive functions are harmful to both the individual and the organization. Employees may encounter difficulties in completing assignments, make errors or mistakes, experience mental fatigue, and take longer to accomplish tasks. Additionally, this can lead to increased stress, frustration, and a decline in overall job satisfaction.

What are the reasons for presenteeism?

Apart from illness, presenteeism can have various causes that contribute to employees being physically present but not fully engaged or productive. Some common causes of presenteeism include:

    • Stress and Burnout: High levels of stress and burnout can lead to presenteeism. Employees may feel overwhelmed or exhausted yet still come to work due to work demands, fear of falling behind, or concerns about job security. Stress-related presenteeism can result in reduced focus, decreased productivity, and long-term health issues.
    • Personal Issues: Employees may experience personal issues such as family problems, financial stress, or emotional challenges that affect their ability to concentrate on work fully. Despite these issues, they may choose to be present at work, but their performance and productivity may be compromised.
    • Lack of Job Satisfaction: Employees may exhibit presenteeism when dissatisfied with their jobs. They may feel demotivated, disengaged, or unfulfilled, yet continue to show up physically without actively contributing to their full potential.
    • Workplace Culture: Organizational culture plays a significant role in presenteeism. Employees may feel pressured to be present even when they are not productive if a workplace emphasizes long hours, competition or has a “workaholic” culture. Fear of negative repercussions or being perceived as less committed can drive presenteeism in such environments.
    • Inadequate Work-Life Balance: Employees may resort to presenteeism to manage both when work demands to infringe upon personal life. They may come to work despite personal obligations or the need for rest, reducing focus and productivity.
    • Job Insecurity: Employees who feel insecure about their job stability or fear losing their positions may engage in presenteeism to demonstrate dedication and commitment. The fear of being perceived as expendable or replaceable can drive them to show up even when unwell or not fully productive.

    • Lack of Supportive Policies: Insufficient support from the organization, such as limited sick leave, lack of flexible work arrangements, or inadequate resources for employee well-being, can contribute to presenteeism. Employees who do not feel supported or encouraged to take time off when needed may opt to be present at work despite their condition.

How does presenteeism affect organizations?

Presenteeism can harm employee well-being, job satisfaction, and overall performance and in return be affected by them. It can also impact team dynamics, increase errors or accidents, and lower organizational productivity.

Employers should strive to create a supportive work environment that promotes employee well-being, encourages open communication, and provides resources for addressing personal and health-related issues.

Presenteeism can have significant impacts on organizational outcomes. Here are some consequences revealing presenteeism’s impact on organizations:

  • Decreased productivity: When employees are present but not fully engaged or focused, their productivity levels are reduced [1]. They may be physically at work, but their performance and output suffer, leading to lower overall productivity levels within the organization.

  • Reduced quality of work: Presenteeism can decrease the quality of work produced by employees. When individuals are not functioning well mentally or physically, they may make more errors, overlook important details, or produce subpar work, negatively impacting the organization’s reputation and customer satisfaction.

  • Increased errors and accidents: Employees who are not fully present and attentive are more prone to making mistakes or causing accidents. Lack of focus, fatigue, or illness can impair decision-making and judgment, leading to errors that may have financial, operational, or safety implications for the organization.

  • Negative impact on employee morale: When presenteeism becomes prevalent within an organization, it can create a negative work environment. Other employees may become frustrated or demotivated by their colleagues’ lack of commitment or performance, leading to decreased morale and team spirit.

  • Increased turnover and absenteeism: Persistent presenteeism can contribute to higher turnover rates as employees may become dissatisfied with the working conditions or the lack of support for their well-being. Additionally, if employees are not taking adequate time off to recover from illnesses or address personal issues, it may lead to increased absenteeism.

  • Reduced Innovation and Creativity: Presenteeism can hinder employees’ creative and innovative contributions. When individuals are not fully engaged or motivated, they are less likely to generate new ideas or contribute to problem-solving initiatives, limiting the organization’s potential for growth and improvement.

Organizations need to recognize these causes and address them proactively to reduce presenteeism. To mitigate the negative impacts of presenteeism, organizations should prioritize employee well-being, create a supportive work culture, encourage work-life balance, and provide resources for addressing health and personal issues. This can help improve employee engagement, productivity, and overall organizational outcomes.

About the Author
Picture of Sanjeev Yadav, M.A. Yoga, P.G. Psych., DNHE
Sanjeev Yadav, M.A. Yoga, P.G. Psych., DNHE

Mr. Sanjeev is a yoga professional specializing in applied yoga, psychology, and human excellence with over more than 8 years of experience as a health and life coach, well-being trainer, and psycho-yogic counselor. He is completing his Ph.D. dissertation in Yoga.