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A Fate Worse Than Absenteeism  18.06.2008

A Fate worse that Absenteeism

What’s worse than staff who take ‘sickies’ to get out of work? Absenteeism is, of course, a huge problem for a number of different organisations. Recently, it was reported that organisations in the Northern Territory were paying workers an extra $100 a week  to ‘not’ take sick days.


Absenteeism is said to cost Australian businesses billions of dollars every year as well as put additional stress and strain on those who pick up the slack.


There is another problem which costs organisations far more money than absenteeism whilst adversely affecting morale, teamwork and productivity. It is known as ‘presenteeism.’

 So what is presenteeism?

 “Presenteeism is a new term used by human resource professionals to describe circumstances in which employees come to work even though they are ill, posing potential problems of contagion and lower productivity” (CCH Incorporated).


Presenteeism includes workers who suffer from major stress, illness, back pain, neck conditions, RSI and the like, thus adversely affecting their work efficiency and effectiveness. I also like to include in this definition workers who may not be ill at all but who are definitely unproductive at work. This may include those who hate their boss, are distracted by problems at home, they might even be looking for other employment on work time -  but they are not emotionally in the ‘zone’ to work productively.


In one study by the Employers Health Coalition, researchers found that the cost of lost productivity through presenteeism was 7.5 times the cost incurred by absenteeism. In a recent study in Australia, it was found that each worker lost (on average) 6 days of work each year as a result of presenteeism – costing over $17 billion to businesses annually. Ouch!


It is of course a very big problem. So, what can be done about it?


  • Firstly, leaders and managers must maintain consistent reviews of key performance indicators and make staff accountable. If there is any drop in productivity, the boss can then quickly intervene and ask the employee if everything is okay.
  • Secondly, provide solutions to prevent illness and chronic health conditions such as RSI, neck and back pain etc. Getting proper ergonomic assessments in the workplace can save the organisation a great deal of time and money in the medium term - especially if staff spend large amounts of time in front of a computer.
  • Lastly, create a fun, performance culture that excites staff about coming to work and achieving results. Rewards and recognition must always be linked to performance and not to the amount of time spent at work.


Enjoy the journey, Blake Beattie


Copyright www.blakebeattie.com 2008