If you’ve ever gone into work despite feeling ill then you’re not alone. While the average number of sick days taken by employees varies between countries, it’s declining year on year. So why do so many of us go to work even when we are sick?
The phenomenon of going into work when we are unwell is also known as presenteeism and it can be caused by a number of factors. Many workers justify the decision to come into work while sick because they believe their work would otherwise accumulate during their absence and still be waiting for them when they return. In addition, some employees fear that their jobs could be at risk if they are away for a period of prolonged illness.
Unlike absenteeism, presenteeism it is a relatively new phenomenon and scientific research on the topic is limited, which means that there is no single definition. For example, in the USA presenteeism focuses on losses in labor productivity, which can also be attributed to the psychological well-being of employees. In Singapore, the term may also refer to the practice where employees stay in the office even after their work is done to wait until their bosses leave.
The impact of presenteeism on business
Although working while sick means an employee is taking fewer sick days, in reality this does not benefit their employer – quite the contrary! Presenteeism increases the likelihood of cardiovascular disease and other poor health conditions that lead to long-term absences. The costs of presenteeism are also higher than those caused by absenteeism due to illness, meaning that there is no benefit to anyone.
Road to recovery
In light of this, if an employee is unwell it is usually best practice to stay at home and return only after complete recovery. This will help to reduce the spread of infection. It’s also worth taking steps to ensure stress levels are minimised. After all, increases in stress weaken our immune system and this in turn makes us more prone to illnesses such as cold and influenza. This is one of many reasons why avoiding stress is so important.
To reduce the likelihood of being impacted by presenteeism, companies should provide employees with the necessary personnel to manage the workload and a good working environment (e.g. office equipment) that promotes a happier, healthier workplace.
Implementing occupational health management can also help to reduce stress and promote physical well-being. This also includes personnel management with regular feedback meetings. In principle, every employer is obliged to carry out a risk assessment in order to filter out possible risks for employees and initiate appropriate measures.
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