Peninsula Team

September 04 2014

Presenteeism generally affects staff members who work long hours, either out of choice or because you force them to.

As an employer, you should be concerned about your workers' health, prevent presenteeism in your business, and cultivate a healthy workforce.

Presenteeism reduces productivity, raises the risk of future chronic diseases, and can result in exhaustion and mental disorders.

In this guide, we'll explain what presenteeism is, the causes of presenteeism, and how to manage it in the workplace.

What is presenteeism?

Presenteeism is the act or behaviour where employees continue to work when they shouldn’t.

It's a productivity issue caused by staff attending work when physically, mentally, or emotionally ill.

What causes presenteeism in the workplace?

There are numerous factors that contribute to presenteeism at work. A number of these causes are individual causes, meaning they are tied to the employee's personality.

Others causes are external, which means they are related to the company they work for or the place they live in.

Some managers count presenteeism as a performance metric without considering their employees' reduced productivity.

Some of them are explained in more detail below:


Employees with certain personalities may be more determined to practice presenteeism than others. For example, presenteeism is embraced by personalities that are responsible and those that are open to new experiences.


Burnout can increase presenteeism, employee turnover, and unwanted behaviours in the workplace. Burnout negatively affects companies' culture and job satisfaction amongst employees.


Psychological factors such as work stress can often result in increased presenteeism. Work stress is known to have harmful impacts on wellbeing, including musculoskeletal problems, blood pressure increase, and lack of sleep.


Workaholism is another element that contributes to more presenteeism in companies. A workaholic is an employee who works obsessively and outside of work hours.

Workaholics are unable to control the amount of time they devote to work, despite negative consequences such as harm to their relationships or ill-health.

Demographic characteristics

A woman is more likely than a man to experience presenteeism in her working life. One of the most important reasons for this is the role of women as mothers. Due to the responsibilities that mothers have, they are directly impacted by the issues their children are going through.

On the other hand, it's said that age has an effect on presenteeism, yet this can be seen in many employees of all ages.

Health-related issues

Chronic diseases such as asthma, arthritis, allergies, and mental health conditions affecting productivity are some of the common examples of the health-related sources of presenteeism.

Workers who aren't in good health and need medical care shouldn't show up to work until they recover properly since they can harm other staff members.

Organisational causes

Organisational causes such as job security, employer support, and job satisfaction have all been proven to be relevant to presenteeism.

For example, staff members with job insecurity or those who don't get promoted often work overtime to do more work and demonstrate their worth to the employer.

An annoyed adult.

Environmental and cultural causes

Heavy traffic, noise, and pollution of all types are major sources of stress in the city where the workplace is located. These are important factors that can contribute to presenteeism at work.

Another important element is culture; a presenteeism culture pushes people to work excessively, which can lead to frustration. To address the public health consequences, employers should focus on implementing policies that reduce presenteeism and promote a healthy work culture.

Why you should care about presenteeism

Sick employees are more likely to be ineffective, and their impaired performance may result in errors in judgement that cost time and money to resolve. Poor attendance at work is also linked to higher levels of employee sick leave in the long run.

Employers who see a rise in presenteeism are roughly twice as likely to report a rise in stress-related absence. The following are some of the consequences of presenteeism that employers should be aware of:

Productivity loss

Presenteeism and productivity loss are strongly linked. If an employee is physically or mentally ill, their productivity will suffer even if they are paid to be there.

One-fifth to three-fifths of all medical costs paid by employers could be attributed to lost productivity due to presenteeism in the workplace.


Exhaustion and future poor health are other side effects of presenteeism which can have an effect on occupational injuries for workers.

Workers who have access to paid sick leave are less likely to experience nonfatal injuries overall than workers who don't have access to paid sick leave.

Physical and mental health problems

In terms of health, presenteeism can result in long-term health consequences, the spread of disease among the workforce, and an increased future incidence of coronary heart disease.

Presenteeism can increase your employees' risk of developing depression, anxiety, stress, and other serious mental health conditions.

How to deal with presenteeism in the workplace

Properly handling presenteeism not only saves employers money in the short and long term, but it also greatly increases employee engagement and productivity.

Below are five tips to help you minimise sickness presence in your business:

Don't prioritise input over output

In some companies, employees who come to work unwell are considered dedicated, and team leaders are expected to persevere through illness to get the job done.

Feeling under pressure to come to work when ill lowers employee morale and has a detrimental influence on physical and mental wellbeing.

Employers should make it clear that sick employees are expected to stay home and recover.

Consider changing your policy

Strictly focusing on sick leave in absence management policies only gives you a limited picture of the productivity losses caused by illness at your company.

Harsh sick leave rules can cause more harm by discouraging employees from taking needed absences, resulting in situations where absenteeism is replaced with presenteeism.

Make sure your line managers understand the difference between absenteeism and presenteeism. You should encourage them to take a more flexible approach to absenteeism, and they should support employees returning to work after a period of illness.

Be aware of the causes

Employees may avoid taking needed time off because they are concerned about missing deadlines or saddling co-workers in their absence.

The amount of work-related stress employees experience is influenced by how line managers communicate with them and support them. Keep in mind that you can always support employees in reducing stress by making it easier for them to manage their workloads.

It's important that the managers who report to you are aware of the organisational and administrative causes of work-related stress and ill-health. They need to be armed with soft skills of management to encourage well-being and productive work habits.

Someone using a laptop.


Identify the signs and symptoms

Employees with health problems, especially those involving their mental health, usually feel unwilling to disclose them to their managers. Even if employees are not hesitant, managers are rarely trained to effectively support them.

Managers must be trained to recognise the signs of employees experiencing high levels of stress or mental health issues. They should be prepared to have open and helpful dialogues with employees about their health.

Workplace training and educating people about common mental and physical health issues will help reduce stigma and provide staff members with a better sense of workplace wellbeing.

Look into your company's employee health plans

A proactive policy that considers social, physical, mental, and financial stressors and provides appropriate support will help to reduce the impact of presenteeism.

Employee health and wellness programs that encourage fitness, employee wellbeing, or financial management can help in the prevention of illness and lessen the effects of mental conditions.

The availability of consultations for common conditions like allergies and sleep disorders can significantly impact employee productivity.

Presenteeism should be on your attention if it isn't already. Making necessary amendments to line manager training and addressing problematic parts of workplace culture can help assure a healthier and more engaged workforce in the long run.

Get advice on presenteeism from Peninsula

Presenteeism, also known as sickness presence, refers to staff members who work overtime when they shouldn’t. They are less likely to take sick days off and may even work during annual leave.

Presenteeism cost estimates are higher than medical costs, resulting in long-term physical and emotional issues for your staff and a profit loss for your business.

Peninsula offers 24/7 HR advice which is available 365 days a year. We take care of everything when you work with our HR experts. Want to find out more?

Contact us on 0800 051 3687 and book a free consultation with one of our HR consultants.

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