Saturday, June 18th, 2011
The cost of presenteeism has far surpassed that of absenteeism. Presenteeism is lost productivity when employees come to work but are not fully productive due to a range of issues. A sick employee may for example come to work, spread sickness to others and increase both presenteeism and absenteeism. An employee suffering from depression comes to work, is not fully productive and places additional burden on others to perform. An employee who has lost a partner may come to work not having fully recovered from the loss and is therefore not fully productive.

A recent Medibank Private booklet states as follows:

1. In 2005-06, the cost of presenteeism to the Australian economy was estimated to be $25.7billion.
2. On average, 6 working days of productivity are lost for each employee as a result of presenteeism.
3. The cost of presenteeism is nearly 4 times the cost of absenteeism.

The main causes of presenteeism are:
• Alcohol consumption by Australian employees amounts to an overall productivity loss of around 4% per employee
• Allergies and hay fever cause a 7% drop in performance
• Inactivity can diminish productivity by 7%
• Smoking diminishes productivity by approximately 10%
• Stress, anxiety and depression average 13% in terms of the resultant performance deficit
• Obesity results in an average work impairment of around 14%
• Neck and back pain result in a 20% productivity drop
• Lack of sleep impairs work performance by up to 30%
• Headaches and migraines can diminish performance by up to 41%
• Depression causes 1 in 5 people to work at 40% capacity
A likely culprit in the increase of presenteeism is a lack of “no-fault” sick time. No-fault sick time refers to allowing employees to take their sick time without having to provide an explanation of why the time is taken. This reduces the amount of presenteeism as employees no longer feel they must act sick to qualify for a sick day. However once an employee begins to run out of sick time, or is only allowed minimal sick time during the year, presenteeism becomes a manner of choice.

According to Solved Group, an organisation established to resolve problems for organisations, absenteeism policies, and lack of policies for dealing with presenteeism and a lack of management education in this area create a presenteeism culture. Employees who move from organisations with restrictive absenteeism policies to those with less restraining policies quickly adapt to the new organisations culture. Employees moving in the opposite direction find it harder to adapt to the new culture increasing presenteeism. In addition employees who regard sick leave as a right rather than a privilege meant to be used when one is genuinely sick are those that increasingly contribute to presenteeism.

Employees who suffer from depression have substantial impact on presenteeism over longer periods. Every week, they contribute 5.6 hours of lost productivity to the tally on presenteeism. Employees with depression are often not the only ones that suffer; co-workers and customers also pay a price through failed teamwork, low morale and attitudinal problems.

“It seems organisations are doing nothing to address the issue. As a result productivity declines, impacting on the bottom line. Organising surveys to understand presenteeism, educating management on recognising and handling such issues at work and creating better understanding are some ways to reduce presenteeism.”

Contact Profile

Solved Group Pty Ltd

Solved Group Pty Ltd operates out of Sydney in NSW and works with businesses and individuals to provide a range of solutions. We determine an organisations needs, develop and implement solutions and empower organisations using our three fold strategy of "Do it yourself.""Do it with us."or "We do it for you."

We also work with individuals to provide a range of solutions.
Kris Varma
P: 1300 90 28 50
M: 0439310400


Presenteeism, absenteeism, productivity, depression, culture



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