Absenteeism…Wait, or is it Presenteeism?

Absenteeism, which occurs when employees do not show up for work is a growing issue that needs to be addressed by employers. Its negative effect on productivity creates an obvious roadblock to achieving company goals. However, a significant number of employees are also guilty of committing “Presenteeism”. This term is used when referring to lost productivity and performance due to employees showing up at work but not really “showing up to work”; these employees do not perform at optimal capacity due to sickness, medical conditions, or simply distraction caused by personal issues such as: caring for a sick relative, financial or marital problems.

Presenteeism is very different and not always as apparent or easily measured as is the case with absenteeism. Many health and wellness programsin place at companies focus on absenteeism. However, solely focusing on absenteeism distorts the relationship between employee health/work‐life quality and employee productivity, because the assumption becomes that when people are at work they are being productive.Unfortunately, the overwhelming fact is that when employees come to work ill, they can have a negative impact on business performance and productivity.

Some employers invest in providing a healthy work environment because it is a reflection of organizational values. However, many employers require a more evident return on investment (ROI) in order to realize the value of health and wellness programs. Presenteeism can have downward spiraling effects on a company’s output and present hidden long‐term costs.

“The increased financial burden and impacts due to presenteeism include work related accidents, equipment breakage, absences related to family‐work life balance, errors in judgement, poor quality of work, conflicts and interpersonal problems”. 1

According to Statistics Canada, on average each employee uses 7.5 days per year or 3% of salary committing absenteeism. Studies of some chronic conditions and health risk factors found that lost productivity from presenteeism was 7.5 times greater than productivity loss from absenteeism. For some stress related health problems such as heart disease, hypertension, migraines, and neck or back pain, the ratio increased to 15 times greater.

Presenteeism is also related to disengagement. Employees who are moderately engaged in or actively disengaged from their work, show up, but do not produce; this has a significant impact on morale and productivity. Towers Perrin found that companies with the highest level of employee engagement achieve better financial results and are more successful in keeping their valued employees.

In order to take additional steps in demonstrating interest in employees and improving employee performance by reducing their Presenteeism and Absenteeism, employers can engage EAP (Employee Assistance Program) providers.

The goal of EAPs is to provide employees and their families with support and help needed to deal with personal problems that might hinder their work performance. A recent study…..Morneau Shepell found that employees who use EAPs often experience positive changes in their work performance, such as being late or absent fewer days, having higher levels of work productivity, and improving their work team relations. The bottom line…..EAP intervention translates into a 25% reduction in health-related lost productivity costs for organizations, providing a 1 to 8 return on investment.


1. According to Employers Health Coalition. Numerical facts found at Statistics Canada.


This is a guest post by Tony Dorzek, Managing Partner at Financial Wellness Planning, a provider of a standalone Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or as an add-on EAP, Group Benefits and RRSPs. For more information, click here to download a brochure or visit www.financialwellnessplanning.ca

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