When it comes to developing strong and productive working
habits, getting the right balance is crucial for managing employees well from a
health and safety perspective. In many Anglo/western societies there exists a
culture of ‘presentism’. Defined by many experts as the phenomenon of employees
staying at work when they shouldn’t be. This can be due to several factors
including stress, job insecurity and illness. All of these and more can have a
big impact on the health and safety of a workforce.
Why do employees exhibit
presentism in their workplaces?
Presentism can be a factor in a workplace for several
reasons and it is an aspect of working life that is notoriously difficult to
change. One of the reasons many decide to come into work when they are not up
to it is because they feel pressurized into it. This can be due to several
reasons and the pressure may come from top-level management, employees, or the
of the organisation.
Other employees may also feel guilty if they do not come to
work, even if they are not up to it. This is one of the most reported reasons
for presentism in the workplace. Whilst it may appear productive to work even
when ill in the short run, it can have some serious long term health
What are the health and safety
dangers of presentism?
With the rise in the focus on mental health, many are
starting to wake up to the very real issues that presentism can have in the
- Prolongment of the ailment in question
One of the big problems that can occur when workers come
into work when they are ill is that it can often lead to a determination of
their condition. This can not only worsen their health but can also lead to
long term reduction in productivity.
- Increased risk of long-term depression
If employees feel
pressured to come into work even when they are ill it can lead to the greater
risk of long term mental health issues. This can include stress-related
conditions and a greater risk of depression.
- Higher risk of accidents at work due to
Whilst a lot of the issues around presentism focus on the
impact of mental health, coming to work when you are unwell can also have
dangerous consequences for the physical health of you and other employees. If
for example, you are subject to presentism when you are operating heavy
machinery, a momentary lapse in concentration could lead to the greater risk of
very dangerous accidents.
How can my business start to
manage presentism in staff?
As shown, the pressure that employees feel to turn up to
work even if they cannot perform their job to their maximum ability can be
dangerous both to the physical and mental health of staff. If you want to
better manage your employees you should try to discourage them from coming in
if they are not fit to work. Make sure you stay up to date with the latest
thoughts on the subject to develop the best strategy to go about this.