Price of presenteeism

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Date: May 4, 2012
From: Occupational Health(Issue 390)
Publisher: DVV Media International Ltd.
Document Type: Article
Length: 1,038 words
Lexile Measure: 1450L

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Head of Work and Well-Being Ltd Dr Bridget Juniper highlights the role of employee wellbeing programmes in tackling the emerging and costly issue of presenteeism.

If workforce productivity is a priority, is it worth focusing your efforts on the vast majority of staff who are turning up to work or reducing the small numbers of people who don't?

In most cases, the answer is to concentrate resources on the former scenario and this relates directly to the issue of presenteeism. It is a subject that is increasingly tabled for discussion as HR and OH managers are challenging its acceptability and are becoming increasingly aware of the costs connected to it.

First, it is important to note that there are three definitions linked to presenteeism, each of which highlights a different aspect. The conventional definition refers to lost productivity that occurs when employees come to work when they are ill and therefore perform below standard. This can also be termed "sickness presence" or "lost health-related work productivity". Some commentators expand the term to encompass healthy employees who are just non-productive. No employee is 100% productive all of the time but examples of this type of behaviour might include surfing the web for extended periods, making lots of personal phone calls or popping out to the shops on an overly frequent basis.

At the other end of the spectrum is the kind of presenteeism that is given over to those that are overly present, ie they consistently put in long hours and will not take their full holiday quota.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A290470761