Employee Presenteeism is a Bigger Problem Than Absenteeism

employee absentism

In This Fast-Paced World, It Is So Easy To Feel Lost And Zone Out Sometimes, Right? A Boring Lecture, A Bad Movie, A Sad Conversation With A Group Or Individual

– We have all been there. Thankfully we all have our own fun things to go back to, like our hobbies or displaying our creative skills at work.

But what if your employees zone out at work too? Turns out, it isn’t that uncommon.

Being physically present and mentally absent is not a new concept to most of us. According to a Virgin Pulse Report, each year, we lose an estimated 57.5 days per employee to presenteeism, which is when employees come to work while suffering from an illness, grief or stress. The estimated cost of losing, in this case, is around $1500 billion a year! This is a major problem that often goes unnoticed when organizations make their engagement strategies.

There are various reasons for an employee to feel disassociated at work. A lot of these factors might stem from personal problems or financial issues. If an employee is going through any kind of personal crisis, the productivity levels at work are going to get impacted at some level. Even though not directly related to work, these problems can drain a lot of energy and creativity from your employees which should not be ignored.

The Role Of Culture

Over 80 percent of workers say they feel stress on the job. The solution to lowering these levels of stress definitely will not come just from a bonus, perks and health insurance. Along with these basic amenities, the culture will be a huge driver.

A culture is impactful when it has the ability to shape behavior, connect everyone to common values and shift organizational thinking. This can happen only when leaders care for their people, and take steps to participate and strategize engagement for their teams.

Even though improving culture requires focused direction, it is also the everyday things that matter. The behavior and interactions of employees within a company on a daily basis can change a company’s culture. Even a small issue like an email or the phrases used while conducting a meeting can drive or hamper employee engagement levels. Politics or gossip are bound to make businesses fail, and cannot go ignored. Employee behavior and reactions to daily activities need to be tracked to understand what is going on. A good way to do this could be to use new tools for employee engagement and feedback in order to track and measure daily interactions.

A Job With A Purpose

Some people confuse motivation with money. This is why money becomes a reward that is given to change people’s minds and behavior. The new age thought is to find meaning and value in the work that a person does. The balance lies between both these elements.

Money is extremely important to satisfy the basic needs of an employee and also indulge in luxuries that he/she always wanted to. But it stops at that and once that is achieved, requirements raise to a more spiritual level, such as the desire to feel happy and fulfilled. According to Dan Ariely, a noted MIT professor, both money and happiness play a part. Money is a powerful lever but there are things that go beyond it.

In a Harvard Business Review study, 72% of respondents ranked recognition given for high performers as having a significant impact on employee engagement. 

Gaining a purpose at work does not happen overnight or with a new project. It needs to start from hiring itself. Only those employees should be hired who connect with the culture and have a deep sense of passion for the work they will do. Next is recognition. To make employees reach their highest potential, businesses have to treat them like their existence and contributions matter. Organizations need to invest in their human resources so that their value increases with time. When organizations fail to provide development opportunities to their employees and treat them as disposable entities, they can never tap the employee performance potential. Believing in your people is the first thing leaders and managers need to do.


The decision to stick to any company (or person) depends on a variety of factors. To name a few, people associate with emotions such as trust, comfort, and support. And in the absence of any of these elements, employees will leave. Unfortunately, most companies fail to deliver on most of their needs.

Employees spend so much time of their lives at the workplace. The workplace needs to be a place where companies support their employees through their challenges, professional and personal. This can be done by creating a culture of caring that also focuses on the professional growth of employees.

Contributing Author
vijay