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The Negative Impact of Presenteeism on the Employee Experience

Presenteeism is a phenomenon in the workplace where employees show up to work despite feeling ill, injured, or otherwise unwell. Think about it... have you ever shown up to work with a little cough or a sore throat that you know will go away? That is presenteeism. While this is often done out of a sense of dedication or loyalty to the organization or the team, it can have a profoundly negative effect on the employee experience. Presenteeism can lead to decreased productivity, increased stress, and a lack of job satisfaction, all of which can have a detrimental impact on an employee’s overall experience and can lead to increased turnover.

Defining Presenteeism

Presenteeism is distinct from absenteeism, which occurs when an employee does not come to work at all. The construction industry is particularly prone to presenteeism due to the industry culture of hard work, dedication, and "manning up" (more about that in other posts about mental health). In construction specifically, presenteeism can be dangerous and have a devastating impact on employees and their families. Additionally, it can lead to safety issues, costly errors, and delays in project completion.

Leaders need to be aware of presenteeism and take steps to prevent it from occurring in their workplace. Toolbox talks and morning safety meetings are a perfect time to look out for signs such as excessive tiredness, reduced performance, and lapses in concentration. If they identify an employee who may be suffering from presenteeism, they should address the situation quickly and provide the necessary support.

Causes of presenteeism

As mentioned above, presenteeism is often caused by an employee’s commitment to their job, desire to please their employer or fear of repercussions if they do not show up for work. It can also be caused by workplace cultures that place a higher value on attendance than productivity, or simply a lack of understanding about the implications of presenteeism.

As you likely know, construction is known for long hours and the pressure to stay at the site to finish a task - even if employees are feeling ill or fatigued. While presentism may seem like a noble effort, it can have a significant negative impact on both the individual and the workplace.

The negative impacts of presenteeism

On an individual level, presenteeism can lead to further ill health, depression and stress. It can also impede the individual’s ability to perform the job effectively, resulting in reduced productivity and increased errors.

At a workplace level, presenteeism can lead to a decrease in morale among colleagues, a drop in productivity, increased errors, and an increase in absenteeism as employees feel obligated to stay away from work if they are too unwell to function. It can also lead to an increase in stress and fatigue for other employees who have to take up the slack of their ill co-worker.

Overall, presenteeism has a serious negative impact on the employee experience and the organization’s bottom line. Employers must be aware of the risks posed by presenteeism and take steps to manage it in the workplace.

Managing presenteeism in the workplace

Presenteeism is a significant problem in the workplace and can have a detrimental effect on both employee experience and productivity. To combat presenteeism, employers must take proactive steps to reduce its occurrence. Here are a few strategies employers can use to manage presenteeism:

  1. Encourage Open Communication: Creating an open dialogue between employees and management is essential in helping to identify issues with presenteeism before it becomes a problem. Encouraging employees to be candid about their physical and mental health can help leaders understand and address the underlying causes of presenteeism.

  2. Offer Flexible Working Arrangements: Implementing flexible working arrangements can be beneficial for both employees and employers. Employers should consider offering flexible hours, part-time options, or remote working where possible, as this can help employees manage their workload and avoid burnout. Don't think that is possible in construction - check out this quick read on how flexible work options WILL work for operations.

  3. Provide Employee Assistance Programs: An employee assistance program (EAP) can provide resources to employees who are struggling with mental health issues, financial difficulties, and other challenges that can contribute to presenteeism. Employers should consider offering EAPs to help employees access support and resources when they need them most.

By implementing these strategies, you can create an environment where employees feel supported and valued, which can lead to a better work experience overall.


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