Learn about the problems with presenteeism at work from a leading business consultant. Discover strategies to improve productivity.
Ah, the age-old tale of gazing out of the office window, physically tied to your ergonomic chair but mentally vacationing on a beach in Bali.
Or perhaps you’ve spotted Dave from accounting, who’s always at his desk, but his productivity graph looks like it took a dive off a cliff.
These aren’t just tales of corporate zombies or haunted desk chairs. They’re a reflection of a quiet “silent quitting” epidemic – which is also called presenteeism.
What is Presenteeism at Work?
You’ve heard of absenteeism. Well, presenteeism is its sneaky cousin.
- Presenteeism, in the simplest terms, is when you’re physically at work, but your mind isn’t.
- If absenteeism is the act of skipping the party, presenteeism is attending but not dancing because your shoes are too tight.
Unfortunately, according to a study by the Harvard Business Review, presenteeism can cut individual productivity by one-third or even more.
Another study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology found that presenteeism costs companies more lost money than absenteeism.
I’m writing about this subject because I’m a leading Behavioral Change Expert and executive coach specializing in productivity in the workplace.
I even gave a TEDx talk on this subject called “Fun is A High Performance Fuel” …where I explained how fun should not just be a “maybe” for work time. It should be the fuel behind work time. Why? Because in order to be productive, we need to not just fill our work hours… but fulfill them.
Let’s take a moment to dive into that concept a bit further.
- When an employee is in a good mental space, they not only show up – they shine. They take tasks by the horns and turn challenges into triumphs.
- But when mental turmoil strikes, it can pull an employee into the shadows of presenteeism.
What Are The Top Causes of Presenteeism?
Presenteeism usually isn’t just about someone’s inability to focus. It often turns out to be about systemic issues within an organization.
Some specific triggers include:
- Overwhelming Workload: Employees often feel mentally checked out when they’re overloaded with tasks and see no end in sight.
- Lack of Job Satisfaction: A role that doesn’t align with an individual’s passion or interest can lead to disengagement.
- Inadequate Resources: Lack of the necessary tools, training, or team support can cause employees to feel stranded.
- Toxic Work Environment: Constant negativity, bullying, or lack of trust in leadership can sap energy and motivation.
- Personal Issues: External stressors like family problems, financial worries, or health concerns can consume one’s thoughts even while at work.
- Fear of Job Loss: In certain environments, employees might fear taking sick days or leaves, leading them to show up even when they shouldn’t.
The general theme remains the same: Mental well-being and productivity are intrinsically linked.
So if you want to protect your company from lost productivity and income, it’s critical to recognize the connection between a person’s mental state and their performance – and nurture their mindset and mood.
6 Tips to Stop Presenteeism and Improve Productivity
Coming up are some ways to improve productivity and work enjoyment by embracing the mantra “work smart, not hard.”
1. Pursue a Healthy Body & Healthy Mind:
An apple a day keeps the doctor away. And maybe a yoga session too? Investing in employee health doesn’t just build immunity against viruses, but also against the lull of presenteeism.
- Research Nugget: The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that wellness-focused workplaces see less presenteeism.
- Example: Google’s wellness programs, like massage credits and fitness classes, aren’t just perks – they’re proven productivity enhancers.
2. Celebrate the Off-Switch:
Clocking in monster hours might make you the office Iron Man, but even superheroes need breaks.
- Research Nugget: Research from Stanford University found that productivity per hour declines sharply when the workweek exceeds 50 hours. So, businesses need to respect boundaries, offer flexible working hours, and prioritize work-life balance.
- Example: At Basecamp, a 4-day work week during summers ensures employees recharge and return raring to go.
3. Enjoy More We-Time, Less Me-Time:
Remember the time when Bob from marketing did the worm at the office party? Team-building isn’t just about trust falls. It’s about having fun and creating memories.
- Research Nugget: Strong interpersonal relationships at work can increase motivation and engagement. A study in the Journal of Applied Psychology revealed that team-building activities could improve both job performance and mental well-being. Basically, when fun permeates the workplace, engagement and productivity surge.
- Example: Atlassian’s ShipIt Days encourage employees to collaborate on innovative ideas, fostering unity and fun.
4. Cheer, Applaud, and Offer the Occasional Trophy:
A pat on the back, a simple “good job”, or a fancy trophy (if you’re feeling generous) can light up someone’s day. Make recognition your daily coffee.
- Research Nugget: Research from Gallup shows that employees who do not feel adequately recognized are twice as likely to quit. Implementing regular recognition programs or even just acknowledging efforts can make a massive difference.
- Example: Companies like Zappos offer “Hero” awards where peers recognize each other’s awesomeness.
5. Pause. Breathe. Repeat:
The DeskTime gods proclaim: work for 52 minutes, play for 17. It’s the rhythm of productivity. After all, even machines need cooling.
- Research Nugget: A study from DeskTime, a productivity app, found that the most productive people work for 52 minutes and then break for 17. These short intervals can rejuvenate the mind, reducing the chances of presenteeism.
- Example: Spotify embraces “Fika” – a Swedish tradition of coffee breaks with colleagues to refresh and bond.
6. Embrace Open Communication
Office doors (or Zoom screens) should always be open. A workplace where voices are heard is a workplace where ideas flourish.
- Research Nugget: According to a study in the Academy of Management Journal, fostering an open communication culture reduces feelings of isolation and increases overall employee satisfaction. Employees should feel they can communicate their concerns without fear.
- Example: At Pixar, “Braintrust” meetings ensure everyone’s voice is valued, fostering creativity and trust.
Wrapping it Up: Stop Presenteeism and Improve Productivity
As I emphasized in my TEDx talk, “Fun is a High Performance Fuel,” successful work should not just be about doing work! It should also be about finding a way to blend in time for fun, recognition, healthy habits, and supportive dialogue.
If you want to learn more about how to reduce presenteeism at work, I encourage you to set up an exploratory call with me here.
Think happier. Think calmer.
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