What is 'Presenteeism'

Presenteeism is defined as the problem of employees who are not fully functioning in the workplace because of an illness, injury or other condition. Even though the employee may be physically at work, he may not be able to fully perform his duties and is more likely to make mistakes on the job.

BREAKING DOWN 'Presenteeism'

Presenteeism is fairly common in most workplaces, even though it is a topic that is not often discussed. We all have (or at least have known of) that one co-worker who still shows up to work even though she may be feeling ill, is injured or is going through some stressful situation. 

Consequences of Presenteeism

Simply put, presenteeism costs employers money. While an employee may think he is doing good by still showing up for work despite being injured, stressed or ill, that is not always the case. In fact, the opposite is usually true. That's because he may end up being less productive or, even worse, make many mistakes while on the job, all of which can cost the company so much more than if he were to stay home. Furthermore, in the case of a physically sick employee who shows up to work, the cost of that employee's illness is likely to spread to other workers.

According to a study quoted by Forbes in an April 2018 article, presenteeism costs the U.S. economy more than $150 billion each year. The study surveyed 29,000 working adults and was called the American Productivity Audit. Meanwhile, two studies conducted by the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that productivity lost on the job due to illness and/or depression were three times more costly than those that resulted from absent employees. 

Presenteeism vs. Absenteeism

Presenteeism is a very underreported phenomenon compared to absenteeism, but people are slowly beginning to shed more light on it as workplaces become more demanding of their employees. One of the main reasons why it has flown under the radar is because it can be difficult to quantify how productive or unproductive an employee will be when she is ill and still at work. 

But absenteeism is a much more studied and reported concept. Absenteeism is when employees do not show up for scheduled work at all. This is often habitual in nature, without any good reason behind it. These absences from the workplaces are often unplanned. Some studies say the full cost of absenteeism is also difficult to quantify, partly because companies are not able to fully tell how productive an absent employee would have been even if he showed up and was on the job. 

Reasons for Presenteeism

So why do employees engage in presenteeism? There may be a number of — or even a combination of — reasons why, including:

  • A fear of losing one's job
  • Lack of sick days available, not enough time off or not willing to take vacation days for illnesses
  • Love of one's job and/or loyalty to the company
  • Feelings of irreplaceability in the workplace
  • A staffing shortage
  • Diminishing chances of career advancement

For example, a doctor may show up to work even if she is feeling under the weather. She may be the only doctor in the clinic, may feel a sense of loyalty to her patients or may even feel fearful of losing some of her patients. 

  1. Absenteeism

    Absenteeism is the habitual non-presence of an employee at his ...
  2. Absentee Landlord

    An absentee landlord, most often found in commercial real estate ...
  3. Key Employee

    A key employee is a staffer who is a stakeholder with a decision-making ...
  4. Termination of Employment

    Termination of employment refers to the end of an employee’s ...
  5. Severance Pay

    Severance pay is compensation given to an employee who has been ...
  6. Fully Vested

    Being fully vested means a person has rights to the full amount ...
Related Articles
  1. Personal Finance

    8 Reasons Why Valued Employees Quit

    Salaries are important, but retaining top employees requires more than just competitive pay. Keep your best employees happy so they stay with you.
  2. Financial Advisor

    Critical Illness Insurance: Do You Need It?

    Critical illness insurance could protect you from financial ruin if you're faced with a health emergency, but its important to weigh the pros and cons.
  3. Managing Wealth

    5 Low-Cost Perks for Small Business Employees

    Money isn’t the only way to motivate employees. Here are some savvy strategies even the smallest business can use.
  4. Small Business

    How Corporate Culture Affects Your Bottom Line

    Here's a look at how companies can be successful financially by promoting a positive work atmosphere for employees.
  5. Managing Wealth

    Top 5 Ways to Retain Your Best Employees

    You need to think beyond salary to make the most talented people want to stay on for the long term.
  6. Managing Wealth

    Top Job Perks You May Not Have Heard Of

    Companies are becoming increasingly creative with their benefits packages, in order to attract younger employees.
  7. Small Business

    How a Financial Wellness Program Benefits Your Business

    Offering a financial wellness program to your small business employees can save you money in the long run.
  8. Managing Wealth

    How Smart Companies Are Keeping Employees Engaged

    Engaged employees are essential to your company's success. Learn what's important to your employees and make those things a priority.
  9. Personal Finance

    How to Lay Off Staff

    Firing employees isn't easy, but it is simple: Be honest, be compassionate and be quick.
  10. Financial Advisor

    Beware Of Company Stock In Qualified Plans

    While owning company stock in a qualified plan does have a few advantages, it can also pose some substantial risks to employees.
  1. What does a merger or acquisition mean for the target company's employees?

    Learn about the likely impact of a merger-and-acquisition deal on the target company's employees, including their benefits ... Read Answer >>
Trading Center