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Spotlight on presenteeism: Six things you might not know

Published: April 1, 2016

Presenteeism means employees attending work while ill, or otherwise disengaged and unproductive. Shining a spotlight on the issue, we’ve compiled a list of things you might not know about presenteeism in this Mitrefinch blog.

1.Presenteeism cases where employees are coming to work while they are still sick can be a major cause of spreading illness in the workplace.

2. Medibank report data estimates the total cost of presenteeism to the Australian economy to be just over AUD 34 billion.

3. Common causes of presenteeism include overly strict sick leave policies; understaffing; the polar extremes of workaholism and its opposite, ‘phoning it in’; unrealistic job demands; harassment for taking sick days; and fear over losing one’s job.

4. Up to 70 per cent of employees in a recent survey admitted to engaging in presenteeism by wasting time at work on a daily basis, ranging from half an hour to several hours at a time.

5. Research suggests that presenteeism has the potential to cost businesses 10 times more than absenteeism, as employees take an average 4 days off per year for sick leave, but admit being unproductive or underproductive for an astonishing 57.5 days a year.

6. To stop presenteeism where employees are physically there at work, but simply wasting time and shirking duties, Katherine Erdel, senior associate of the Labour and Employment Practice Group at Bingham Greenebaum Doll recommends a three-pronged approach, involving being as clear as possible with expectations, pinpointing employees’ temptations for wasting time, and rewarding highly productive employees to incentivise good performance.

With the Mitrefinch job and labour costing functionality, supervisors and management are able to examine jobs or tasks individually and understand if they are successful or profitable as well as determine the relative productivity of each employee and give insight into whether or not there are ‘presenteeism’ issues at play. The system enables employees to record when they start and finish work, as well as the jobs or tasks they have worked on and for how long, feeding into a manager’s dashboard of information and insights on production.

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