Our understanding of presenteeism has expanded now to being at work even when you are healthy but, for whatever reason, are not sufficiently productive.
Absenteeism is easy to identify because the employee is simply not at work. Presenteeism is much more difficult to identify.
Very few people wake up in the morning and deliberately aim to go to work but not be productive, unless there is a very good reason behind this. There can be as many reasons for this as there are people.
Here are some possible symptoms of presenteeism to watch out for:
It is critically important to avoid assumptions and to ‘do your homework’ when faced with a suspected case of presenteeism.
Be sure the presenteeism is not being confused with lack of ability. It is important to understand if the individual is able to do the job. It may be that they are underskilled and cannot do the job, and not necessarily that they are presenting with ‘presenteeism’ symptoms.
The focus has shifted to employee engagement – the emotional commitment an employee has to the organisation. As the global war for talent continues, companies are competing to attract and retain top talent. The competition is fierce and just as it makes good business sense to focus externally on who your customers are and what your customers want, so it is now imperative to also focus internally on employee engagement.
To have engaged and productive employees, first identify the culture of your company. Many companies will write in their annual reports and splash all over their website that ‘our people are our greatest asset’ and yet the reality is that their employees are disempowered, disregarded, dislocated and disengaged because of the way things are done in the company (this is one of the definitions of organisational culture).
Employees are likely to feel most valued and engaged when:
What to do?
Communicate with your employees, conduct a culture survey, or be even more specific and conduct an employee engagement survey. If you are going wrong at a culture level, some work will need to be done to start changing the culture of the company and making it more conducive for highly productive, engaged employees.
Second, connect personally with your employees. Understand their strengths and their blind spots. Understand their unique contribution to the business, and which positions in the organisation suit their skill set best. But also understand what specific factors would foster their engagement and thus their productivity. Flexible working hours for the talented marketing director with small children, praise and recognition for the millennial who revamped your corporate social responsibility programme, a challenging stretch assignment for a young specialist, financial reward for the mid-career manager who is building his nest-egg for retirement.
Of course these are stereotypical examples but research shows there is a business case for employee engagement. As employees become more engaged, their productivity and performance increases and the bottom line of the business as a whole benefits.