Absenteeism vs. Presenteeism: How Both Can Adversely Affect Your Business

by Thom Tracy

2 min read

Two of the biggest issues you must deal with to maximize productivity are absenteeism and presenteeism. While business owners tend to place more emphasis on employee absences, because that’s a figure that’s easy to track, presenteeism can be just as much, if not more, of an issue. It’s important to take steps to reduce both absenteeism and presenteeism to keep your business running smoothly.

Absenteeism

Absenteeism is when an employee doesn’t work at all that day, either at the office or by telecommuting. An employee may take an absence because of an illness, an emergency, an important prior engagement, or simply to get a day off, although that is less common than the first three reasons. Obviously, having an employee out adversely affects the productivity of your business that day and can carry over into subsequent days, as well, if the employee falls behind and needs to catch up on work upon returning. If your business pays sick leave, then you’ll also lose money there. For employees, taking an absence can be stressful, as they worry that it will look bad in the eyes of their employer.

Presenteeism

Presenteeism is when an employee is at the workplace but not performing to his usual level of productivity. This could be due to illness, stress, or issues with motivation. The obvious problem with presenteeism is that you’re paying employees for a level of productivity that they aren’t . If an employee comes in while sick, it could also lead to others in your workplace getting sick, further affecting your business’s overall productivity. Presenteeism tends to have a much larger impact on productivity than absenteeism, costing businesses 57.5 days of productivity per year compared to four lost days per year due to absences.

Flexibility and Understanding Are Key

The most important part of minimizing absenteeism and presenteeism is letting employees know that it’s okay to be absent when necessary. This may seem counterintuitive, but presenteeism is a bigger issue than absenteeism. You don’t want your employees coming in sick because they feel like they can’t miss work, and then spreading those colds to everyone else. Consider offering some flexibility in terms of scheduling or the option to telecommute, both of which can help cut down on absences. That way, an employee who is feeling under the weather or has an emergency in the morning can simply come in to work later that day or work from home.

Outside Issues Affecting Your Employees

An employee could be having productivity issues because of stress or a mental illness, which don’t always resolve themselves on their own. You can help your employees deal with issues outside work by offering employee assistance programs or counseling options. While it is another expense, it benefits your business in the long run when you prioritize the mental health of your employees.

Taking Corrective Action

While it’s important to be understanding and flexible and to help your employees as much as possible, repeated absences or frequent lackadaisical performances require corrective action. If you’ve given employees plenty of opportunities to resolve their issues and those issues continue to occur, explain to them that any further occurrences could result in termination.

References & Resources

Related Articles

How to Cut Down on Worker Absences

Worker absenteeism can cause your business to lose money. Consider the following…

Read more

Prioritizing Mental Health in Your Small Business

The Mental Health Commission of Canada reports that mental illness is the…

Read more

Decision-Making Skills for Effective Leaders

Perhaps the most vital leadership quality is being a good decision maker.…

Read more