On the Job, but Not Working

Employers are aware that sick /personal leave can impact on the productivity of the business. But what happens when your employees show up for work but are not producing quality work and performing as you would expect? This may be a case of Presenteeism.

Presenteeism is defined as attending work when sick or in some way incapacitated and unable to perform at normal rates of productivity.

Presenteeism is also used to refer to employees who demonstrate good attendance but are not engaged in their job due to lack of enthusiasm, distraction (e.g. personal internet browsing, use of mobile phone, chatting too much) and taking excessive time to complete tasks.

Both forms of presenteeism affect performance on the job and can lead to the employee and others in the team losing hours of productivity per day.

There may be various reasons why an employee might attend work whilst being unwell instead of taking time off: workload pressure, organisational culture, unavailability of paid leave (due to an entitlement already been used up) or fear of disciplinary action.

Presenteeism can affect productivity. If the employee attends work whilst sick, they may exacerbate their health problem and take longer to recover, and cause other employees to become sick due to contact with contagions. If any employee is not applying maximum discretionary effort, there may be a drop in output, missed deadlines, mistakes, reduced team moral and conflict.
In terms of handling employees who are sick/unwell, employers should strive to foster a culture that discourages employees from coming to work sick and encouraging the genuinely sick to stay at home until they have recovered, and foster feelings of inclusivity and caring when they return to the workplace.

In the case of under-performance, a good starting place is asking the employee if everything is okay at work and at home. If work is the cause of the employee’s problems, openly discuss this and determine what can be done to assist them and address the problem. If there are problems outside of work, these may require solutions outside of the business, such as an Employee Assistance Programme.