Workplace Issues

Don’t Worry About Absenteeism: Leadership Expert

"Presenteeism," or not being engaged on the job, is a far more costly problem for employers than absenteeism.
David McCannJanuary 10, 2019

Forget sick days: Research shows “presenteeism” — showing up for work but not performing at full capacity due to sickness, lack of engagement, or distractions — costs business 10 times more than absenteeism.

While workers say they take an average of only four sick days a year, they also confess to spending the equivalent of about 12 work weeks per year being idle or unmotivated on the job, according to a study by the World Health Organization.

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Of course, that causes a financial drain for employers. “Presenteeism is a costly problem that touches every industry and every company,” says Jack Skeen, a Fortune 500 leadership coach and leadership development expert.

Ironically, he says presenteeism could actually be decreased if employers stop focusing so much on absenteeism.

“The workplaces that make it the most difficult for workers to use vacation days or call in sick are the ones that are most likely to have poorly motivated staff,” says Skeen, author of “The Circle Blueprint: Decoding the Conscious and Unconscious Factors that Determine Your Success” (Wiley, 2017).

“They come in resentful, overworked, and unmotivated, whereas offices that encourage a strong work/life balance have content and energetic workers,” he adds.

An effective solution for decreasing presenteeism is a mindset that’s simply foreign to some companies, however. “One of the best ways to keep workers on task is to make sure that every employee feels as though they matter, not just as workers, but as human beings,” Skeen says.

He also notes that unclear reward systems can be problematic. If workers don’t think raises and promotions are given out fairly, they won’t see any purpose in giving 100% because they won’t believe their efforts will be rewarded, according to Skeen.

He counsels that leaders should change their point of view from “How can I get the most out of my employees?” to “How can I give the most to my employees?”

“People will feel seen, valued, and empowered, and they will be much more likely to be present and focused on the job,” Skeen says.