Leon Gettler: Absenteeism, Presenteeism and Management


If you wake up in the morning, look at the grey sky, and decide it’s all too much and put in an Oscar-winning phone call to your boss and say you’re too sick to come into work, you’re not Robinson Crusoe.  Studies show lots of other people do the same thing. But that’s also telling us something about the levels of stress and lack of engagement in the workplace. By the same token, if you turn up to work when you’re crook (something that usually comes with excuses like “I feel guilty”, “There’s too much work to do” and “I save my sick time for family emergencies, like when my kids are sick”), it also tells us that there’s something wrong at work. Too much pressure and lack of engagement leave people feeling there’s more pressure on them to turn up sick. Whether it’s “absenteeism” or “presenteeism”, both are issues for managers.

As reported here,  63 per cent of Australian employees admitted to taking a sickie at some point in their lives to get the day off. While 27 per cent said throwing a sickie was a way of juggling personal responsibilities and emergencies, one in three said they did it because they felt they felt stressed and burned out.

According to the VECCI blog, this is very much a management issue. It quotes SHL’s Stephanie Christopher saying that these findings are all about anxiety and burnout. It’s about the relationship between the employee and their boss. And if nothing else, it goes to show that employee engagement is the driving force behind not only absenteeism but productivity as well.

The cost of absenteeism is more than just paying employees who don’t turn up for work. Other costs would include reduced productivity, and the impact of stress on colleagues who are forced to pick up the slack. According to HC Online, absenteeism is costing business $2 billion a year. And in the end, it all comes down to the level of engagement from managers.

Forbes reports that a global study by corporate research giant Gallup found that Australian workers are among the most dissatisfied in the world. Only 18 percent of Australian respondents said they were fully engaged in their work. And if absenteeism is linked to lack of engagement, it can only mean one thing: the absenteeism rate will continue to climb. To turn it around, we need better managers.

Presenteeism is just as big a problem. According to a study by the Influenza Specialist Group, 90 per cent of Australians have come into work sick for fear of missing deadlines or letting down their colleagues. The study found that one in five said they didn’t think the flu-like symptoms were serious enough for them to stay home.

And once more, it’s all about management. One study has found that presenteeism is more prevalent than absenteeism and that it’s related to stress, lower line management supervision and perceived pressure to attend from either managers or work colleagues with 40 per cent of employees claiming that they felt pressured by others to attend work when unwell.

So whether it’s absenteeism or presenteeism, it’s all comes down to bad management.

How would you fix the problem of absenteeism and presenteeism?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>