Aches and pains, a bit feverish and congested? Whatever, you managed to get out of bed and get to work, like 90% of employees surveyed by Accountemps in the fall of 2019. What drives this presenteeism and how can it be countered?
The main reason respondents gave for their presence – rather than staying in bed – is the workload that would build up in their absence, in more than half the cases. Others don’t want to take a sick day off (33%), while more than a quarter (28%) dare not stay at home due to pressure from their employer. And there is a feedback loop, even a contagion, with this presenteeism: seeing colleagues coming to work sick pushes 18% of survey respondents to do the same.
One of the most direct effects is spreading viruses in the workplace. The survey found that 9 out of 10 employees say they got sick after working with a colleague who was sick. In addition, a sick worker is necessarily less productive and will likely take longer to get better.
But beyond an occasional illness, presenteeism can also take the form of chronic diseases, such as back pain, headaches or digestive problems, for example. More insidious and often less spectacular than a good man cold, these problems lead to a continuous decline in the worker’s performance and increase the risk of mistakes. In the long run, the suffering employee is likely to become disengaged from his work and employer and suffer more serious psychological problems.
A healthy workplace where vertical communication is fostered helps employees feel understood and respected, even with their viruses! They will feel less pressure to present themselves at work sick and will find it easier to suggest options that work for them.
Managers can also lead by example by avoiding coming to work sick. They can also offer solutions to employees who do not want to do the same, proposing remote work or providing office help to lighten the workload while getting back on their feet.