Work Presenteeism

Work Presenteeism refers to the phenomenon where employees attend work despite experiencing physical or mental illness, injury, or other personal issues that may negatively impact their productivity, job performance, or overall well-being. It can be considered the opposite of absenteeism, which is when employees do not show up for work when they should.

Purpose and Role: Presenteeism is often driven by employees feeling the need to demonstrate commitment to their job, fear of job loss or negative perceptions from managers or colleagues, high workload, or a lack of sick leave or paid time off. The role of presenteeism in the workplace is complex, as it can sometimes be seen as a sign of dedication, but more often, it leads to reduced productivity, job dissatisfaction, and potential health issues.


  1. Physical and mental health: Employees experiencing illness, injury, or mental health issues may still attend work, affecting their ability to perform optimally.
  2. Organizational culture: A workplace culture that values presenteeism may inadvertently encourage employees to prioritize attendance over their well-being.
  3. Job insecurity: Employees fearing job loss or negative perceptions may be more likely to engage in presenteeism.
  4. Workload and job demands: High workloads or job demands may force employees to attend work even when unwell.
  5. Lack of sick leave or paid time off: Limited sick leave or PTO can contribute to presenteeism.

Importance: Presenteeism is a critical issue for organizations to address, as it can lead to reduced productivity, increased workplace accidents, and long-term health consequences for employees. It can also contribute to the spread of infectious diseases, further impacting the workforce.

History: Presenteeism has been a topic of discussion in the field of occupational health and organizational psychology for decades. However, it gained increased attention in the early 2000s with the rise of competitive work environments, job insecurity, and increased awareness of mental health in the workplace.

Benefits and Pros:

  • Short-term dedication: Presenteeism can demonstrate an employee's commitment to their job and organization.
  • Continuity of work: In some cases, presenteeism can maintain workflow and help meet deadlines.


  • Decreased productivity: Employees attending work when unwell are likely to be less productive and efficient.
  • Increased health risks: Presenteeism can exacerbate existing health issues and create new ones, leading to long-term consequences for employees.
  • Spread of illness: Attending work while sick can contribute to the spread of infectious diseases, negatively impacting others in the workplace.
  • Job dissatisfaction: Chronic presenteeism can lead to increased job dissatisfaction and burnout, affecting employee retention and engagement.

Examples to illustrate key concepts:

  • An employee with a cold or flu comes to work, potentially spreading the virus to others while also struggling to perform their tasks effectively.
  • A worker with a high-stress job may attend work despite experiencing symptoms of burnout, further exacerbating their mental health issues and reducing overall productivity.
  • An organization with a culture that rewards presenteeism may inadvertently encourage employees to prioritize attendance over their well-being, leading to reduced productivity and increased health risks in the long run.

Addressing presenteeism requires organizations to develop supportive policies, promote a healthy work-life balance, and encourage employees to prioritize their well-being.

See Also