Presenteeism – Definition

Cite this article as:"Presenteeism – Definition," in The Business Professor, updated January 11, 2020, last accessed October 25, 2020,


Presenteeism Definition

When employees encounter problems such as injuries, chronic physical or mental illness, use or abuse of medications or drugs, external stress or other difficulties in the employee’s personal life; they become partially functional in their respective roles at work. This condition is known as presenteeism.

It is also defined as the practice of an employee being present at his place of work for more hours than is required, especially as a manifestation of insecurity about his job. Though the employee is physically present at work, he is more likely to make mistakes and be less productive; causing a 30% productivity loss or more.

A Little More on What is Presenteeism

Though presenteeism is fairly common in workplaces, it can be seen in toxic workplaces which makes employees feel guilty for taking time off. Presenteeism is usually very hard to identify. It is well known by an employee’s colleagues when he doesn’t show up for work, but it is often difficult to tell when, or how much, poor health hurts on-the-job performance. Although, many of the health problems that result in presenteeism are relatively mild ones. It is a well-known fact that, when people feel bad, they definitely won’t perform at their best. Employees with migraine headaches probably have a hard time staring at a computer screen all day long.

Consequences of Presenteeism

In simple terms, the cost incurred by employers as a result of presenteeism is high. Though an employee may have good motives for showing up at work despite being ill, it would have been better if he stayed at home. This is because he may end up being less productive and incur losses that is three times costlier than staying home, as revealed in two studies conducted by the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In an April 2018 article, Forbes quoted a study made on presenteeism. It was revealed that presenteeism cost the U.S. economy more than $150 billion every year after surveying 29,000 working adults.

Presenteeism vs. Absenteeism

Even though presenteeism is underreported as compared to absenteeism largely due to the difficulty in quantifying the productivity of ill employees who are present at work; it is gradually coming into the limelight as employees are under more pressure from employers.

Absenteeism, on the other hand, has been well studied and can be defined as a situation where an employee doesn’t show up at work often without a good reason; most of which are often unplanned. In some studies, it was revealed that absenteeism can also be difficult to quantify since an employee cannot be sure of how productive an absent employee would have been if he were present.

Reasons for Presenteeism

Employees engage in presenteeism for a number of reasons. Certain occupations such as welfare and teaching are more prone to be affected by presenteeism. For example, doctors may attend work while sick due to feelings of being irreplaceable.

Workplaces, where employees are bombarded with large workloads, are also prone to presenteeism. Employees whose self-esteem is attached to their performance in their place of work are not left out.

Some employees’ motives, such as the need for money, an act of organizational citizenship and being admired by other colleagues, feeling that their career prospects may be damaged if they take time off, and an expectation of presence driven from the management; can lead to presenteeism.

References for “Presenteeism › Small Business › Entrepreneurship



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