As a safety manager or HR professional, you probably know about absenteeism. However, do you know about presenteeism?

What is presenteeism?

Does the following scenario sound familiar? You are at work, but you are out of it. For some reason, on this particular day, you not locked in while on the job. Instead, something else - fatigue, weariness, professional or personal issues - preoccupies your thoughts and time, which results in significantly diminished productivity. This is presenteeism. 

Essentially, presenteeism is the process of being at work, yet being unproductive or producing little work. Presenteeism is like working on an empty tank. Another way to look at it: presenteeism is when your body shows up but the rest of you does not. 

Presenteeism costs organizations big money. A report from Virgin Pulse, a healthy lifestyle solutions organization, found that in an average workforce, significant time is wasted. In a year, employees reported missing an average of four days of work, yet were unproductive for approximately 58 days during work hours. 

A 2009 article by Loeppke and colleagues reported that for every dollar of medical and pharmaceutical costs spent, an employer lost an additional $2.30 of health-related productivity costs. Health-related presenteeism was shown to have a larger impact on lost productivity than absenteeism, with executives and managers suffering higher losses. 

What are the common types of presenteeism? 

Everyday pressures may affect an employee's performance while at work. Some of the most common reasons for presenteeism include: 

·         Professional/work issues: challenging work relationships, inefficient job design, feeling lack of security, distrust or uncertainty. 

·         Personal issues: conflicts within family, relationships or money concerns. 

·         Physical health: sleep deficit, hangover, chronic health issues and/or major illness diagnosis. 

·         Mental health: depression, anxiety, eating disorders, attention deficit disorder and substance abuse (mental health is a large and growing problem facing people today). 

How to reduce presenteeism? 

Studies have shown that individuals are more likely to be productive and engaged with their work if they are physically, emotionally and mentally healthy and work in a safe and healthy workplace culture in which jobs are clearly defined, communication is good, and employees have a hand in goal setting and measuring their performance. 

In short, employers should strive to create a culture in which employees feel empowered and encouraged to find balance and productivity in professional and personal lives. When humans perform well in life, it directly benefits their companies. 

Examinetics' Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kent Peterson believes this is an achievable goal for employers who possess the right mindset and continually strive to create healthy workplace environments and cultures. 

"Employers have rich opportunities to create workplace environments that engage workers, foster worker loyalty, enhance their emotional intelligence and reduct accident and illness, by improving their health and fitness, improving efficiency through workplace ergonomics, managing illness and reducing unnecessary lost time while seeking medical care."

For more information on workforce health, the "The link between workforce health and safety and the health of the bottom line." This research, co-authored by Dr. Peterson, was published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 

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This is business-to-business information intended for EHS (environmental health and safety) professionals and not intended for the final consumer. Companies should check the local regulatory status of any claim according to their individual needs, requirements and intended use.