4 December 2014

Don't Let Presenteeism Ruin Your Christmas Productivity


Barry Chignell

Barry Chignell

Barry Chignell worked in Ciphr's marketing team from 2012-2020.




In a survey conducted regarding absence, 93% of workers said that they would work through illness. It has also been reported that overall productivity through periods of presenteeism is lower than traditional absence.  Don’t let presenteeism ruin your Christmas productivity.

It’s that time of year when colds and flu are common and we are more likely to require time off work.

There are a number of ways that you, the employer, can reduce presenteeism from occurring. First you need to understand why employees feel the need to work through illness, rather than taking time off to recover.

There are a number of reason staff will report to work while ill, these include:

  • Job insecurity
  • Peer pressure
  • Money worries
  • Contractual terms
  • Workaholism

Businesses where the culture encourages people to drag themselves into the office regardless of their condition are not uncommon. With the economic climate in mind, business leaders feel pressured to squeeze productivity out of their workforce to meet targets and remain profitable.
The problem is that judgement often becomes clouded and creating a culture of presenteeism actually adversely affects productivity.

Employees coming into the office while sick can infect others, causing them to either take time of or propagate the presenteeism further.
Morale is reduced as people cough, sneeze and complain about how bad they feel (quite rightly, they shouldn’t be working!).

How can presenteeism be reduced

Fix the culture

Employees should feel that they can take time off when genuinely ill. This message needs to be relayed from leaders within the organisation. Managers should set an example of when to take sickness and stay away from the office.
There should be adequate talent within the business to allow short term cover for those employees taking time off. This will help to relieve the pressure felt by some that the job won’t get done if they’re absent.

Stamp out criticism

If employees are heard to be ridiculing another for their absence then this should be stopped. Employees shouldn’t feel that they’re being judged for their absence.

Have clear policies that don’t encourage presenteeism

Policies should be in place for absence, but they should in no way encourage employees to attend work while sick. These can be published for all employees on the business intranet, this will enable staff to access the documents as and when required.

Ensure that employees receive sick pay, if not then you’re actively encouraging them to attend work whilst sick.

Create a healthier working environment

We’ve written a lot in the past about how to make the office environment a more healthy place, please click here to read about this topic specifically.

As well as health considerations within the office, it’s also advised to implement flexible working.
This has been shown to reduce stress and absence by allowing employees to work when and where they are most productive and happiest.