What Is Presenteeism And How Does It Impact Your Business?

The Silent Danger Of Presenteeism

Everyone can face a physical or mental health issue at some point while working. If the problem is serious enough, some employees may need time off to fully recover. However, people often still show up at work even when they’re not feeling well. This is called presenteeism, and it involves pushing yourself to work while being unfit, sometimes ignoring your physical and mental health. However, this practice shouldn’t be considered a sign of dedication, as it can negatively impact businesses and employee well-being. According to a 2022 report by Deloitte, presenteeism is the main cause of a £53-56 billion loss in the UK economy, among other employment issues. With that in mind, it’s clear that employers should quickly pinpoint and deal with the problem as soon as possible. Let’s learn more about presenteeism and see how it impacts the workplace.

4 Reasons Behind Presenteeism

1. Fear Of Job Loss

Many employees fear that they’ll lose their jobs if they call in sick at work. This may come from unsupportive managers, memories of the difficult pandemic times, or the need to perform at their best at all times. While losing your job that easily might have been a problem in the past, even now that job hopping is possible, many employees are still unsure about whether they’ll keep their positions. Plus, with the global economy facing significant issues in recent years, people tend to show up at work no matter how sick they feel.

2. Toxic Work Culture

Understaffed departments, negligence of employee needs, and unsupportive behavior from upper management are a recipe for disaster, and in this case, presenteeism. When employees feel pressure to continue working because they can’t be replaced or when deadlines are getting tighter and tighter, they’re more likely to show up sick to impress their leaders and maintain performance rates. Let’s not forget that, unfortunately, some employees may receive discouraging comments from their colleagues and managers when they call in sick, feeling guilty and overexerting themselves.

3. Financial Concerns

Some people’s paychecks are tightly connected to how many hours they work. So, if they’re financially unstable or worried about how they’re going to pay the bills if they miss work hours, it’s only logical that they’ll choose to show up sick at work. On the other hand, some companies don’t offer paid sick leave, no matter how irrational this sounds. Again, people may think twice before missing work, even if they don’t feel well, especially if that means that they won’t get paid for that day.

4. Sense Of Commitment

Sometimes, employees go to work even if they feel unwell, not because they care about deadlines and projects but because they have a sense of dedication. They don’t want to let their team down or transfer their workload to their peers, so instead of burdening others, they work while being sick. This is especially common in tight-knit teams, where people don’t express their illness because they’re sure their teammates will offer to take over. And since they don’t want to disrupt the workflow, they prefer to ignore a headache or a sore throat.

Negative Impacts On Businesses

Decreased Productivity

It’s only natural to not perform at your best when you’re at your worst. Going to work with a stuffy nose and a foggy brain is more likely to lead to slower task completion times and possibly even mistakes. You can’t concentrate when something’s bothering you physically or mentally. Imagine if multiple people across all departments did the same. If one or more team members can’t work at their usual pace or can’t focus, more errors will happen, and the quality of work will be significantly lower.

Unhealthy Environment

Even if someone has a common cold, it can quickly cause other employees to become ill, too. Although some of them may still tough it out and come to work, others will inevitably stay home to combat their illnesses. This will result in canceled meetings, postponed presentations, missed deadlines, and, of course, disappointed clients. So, when you encourage your staffers to take sick days when they feel under the weather, you’re not only protecting them but the company, too.

Effects On Mental Health

The more your employees show up unwell at work, the more they’ll get exhausted, both physically and mentally. The constant pressure of having to perform at their best no matter what and the lingering fear of disappointing others or even losing their jobs will take a toll on their mental health. You might notice that they lose their enthusiasm and aren’t as engaged as they used to be. They may even start getting dissatisfied with the company, thus doing the bare minimum and seeking other job opportunities on the side.

Healthcare Costs

Employees showing up sick at work can actually cost companies more than what they spend on medical treatment and other related costs. Presenteeism tends to increase the healthcare bills for businesses and employees, especially when people neglect their health for far too long, creating extra issues. While having your employees show exemplary dedication is a valuable asset, make sure you highlight the importance of taking days off. No one benefits from an unwell workforce.

Impact On Team Dynamics

If one or more team members are underperforming due to sickness, this can hurt collaboration and team morale. From sharing the workload or covering someone’s mistakes to not participating in brainstorming sessions and meetings, presenteeism affects the relationships among team members. However, this may not have immediate effects. Employees will gladly cover their absent-minded peers’ tasks at first, but over time, they will start getting frustrated. So, make sure your teams are comfortable taking days off to protect the peace in the workplace.


As an employer, there are many things you can do to ensure your workforce is at its best and avoid presenteeism. Empowering your employees to manage their well-being by providing them with paid sick days off and resources is a great way to start. Although presenteeism is a tricky topic, you can increase productivity among your employees while enabling them to care for themselves, contributing to a healthier workplace.

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