The practice of being present at one's place of work while sick is termed as presenteeism. High job demands, stress and insecurity are among the main reasons why people go to work even when they are not well and are advised to rest, suggested a new research.
Lead author Dr. Mariella Miraglia, lecturer in organizational behavior at University of East Anglia (UEA), said, "Presenteeism is associated with work and personal factors and not just medical conditions. Working while ill can result in negative job attitudes and withdrawal from work. However, the possible negative consequences of being absent can prompt employees to show up ill or to return to work when not totally recovered."
‘Presenteeism can result in negative job attitudes and withdrawal from work. However, the possible negative consequences of being absent can prompt employees to show up ill or to return to work when they have not totally recovered.’
A key finding is that presenteeism not only stems from ill health and stress but also from raised motivation like high job satisfaction and a strong sense of commitment to the organization. The authors wrote, "This may motivate people to 'go the extra-mile', causing them to work more intensively, even when sick."
One of the significant links to presenteeism is the severity of organizational policies used to monitor or reduce staff absence, such as strict trigger points for disciplinary action, job insecurity, limited paid sick leave or few absence days allowed without a medical certificate.
For the study, researchers analyzed data from 61 previous studies involving more than 175,960 participants, including the European Working Conditions Survey which sampled employees from 34 countries. Job demands, such as workload, understaffing, overtime and time pressure, along with difficulty of finding cover and personal financial difficulties, were found to be key reasons why people might not take a day off.
Conflict between work and family and vice versa, and being exposed to harassment, abuse and discrimination at work were also positively related to presenteeism. The authors said, "This is because these negative experiences can exacerbate stress and harm health, requiring employees to choose between going to work and staying away. Those who had a supportive work environment felt they did not have to go to work when ill, and were both more satisfied with their jobs and healthier."
Dr. Miraglia said, "Because presenteeism is more predictable than absenteeism, it is easy to modify by management actions. Workplace wellness and health programs may be desirable to reduce stress and work-related illness."
Organizations may benefit from well-designed jobs that limit the level of demands to which employees are exposed to every day, for example by reducing excessive workload, time pressure and overtime work. The study said, "The management needs to understand what triggers presenteeism and what can be done to improve employees' health and productivity. Organizations may want to carefully review attendance policies which could decrease absence at the cost of increased presenteeism."
The study was published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.