The term “presenteeism” has been used widely in management magazines recently. It describes a situation in which we show up to work in a state where we are not able to work (physically or psychologically). It is omitting to absent oneself, even if we have a good reason to do so. According to the experts, it’s a common phenomenon that is spreading on the workplace.
Presenteeism is the result of the valorization of diligence at work aimed at reducing absenteeism, in comparison to which it is still excessive – proportionally and inversely opposed. It is the flipside of the coin.
Martin Lauzier and Éric Gosselin, of the Université du Québec en Outaouais, LAUZIER M. et É. GOSSELIN. (L’ABC du présentéisme : le côté obscur de la présence au travail, Effectif, vol. 14, n° 3, 2011.) have identified different factors weighing in on the choice of coming to work at all costs. They include:
The gravity of presenteeism can only be measured by its duration. Most of the time, presenteeism is short-term, often only a few days. There are reasons to worry when an ill employee comes to work for two weeks, a month, or more. Long term, omitting to take the time to care of ourselves worsens the problem.
The definition of presenteeism itself requires that there be “presence of a health problem” – psychological or physiological – entailing reporting to work even when ill. However, based on experience, there is an ever subtler form of presenteeism with an indicator one should give proper attention to, as it is precursory to presenteeism. I often observe it among participants in Time and Priority Management training sessions – an excessive presence at work! Often, they confuse efficiency and effectiveness.
They say that:
These people are not sick. However, pushed by a desire to prove themselves, to look good, or by a fear of losing their job, by devotion to their responsibilities, by a feeling of guilt, by loyalty to their organization or by a simple love for their work, they unconsciously favor quantity to quality. They adhere to a culture where the value of their work depends on the number of hours invested. But this omnipresence does not guarantee performance!
The Ilich law states that beyond a certain threshold, human effectiveness decreases, or becomes negative. After 90 minutes of continuous concentration, we are no longer effective. Ideally, we should take a 15-minute break (relaxing, taking a walk, going out for fresh air, etc.) before going back to work. However, even after taking these breaks, we cannot work restlessly for 12 hours a day. For some, it’s their modus operandi, their way of doing things and not a temporary or unusual situation.
The added value we offer as a worker does not reside in the number of hours we work, but in our ability to be proactive rather than reactive, to take initiative and decisions, to think outside the box and get out of our comfort zone, to be creative in our ability to solve problems. In short, it’s all about the quality of our work!
When we persist being too present, we risk being less effective, less focused, more prone to make mistakes and finally demotivated and disengaged due to the fact we are exhausted. Professional overinvestment results in a general increase of the stress level and in a decrease of the productivity level. It increases risks of professional exhaustion.
Presenteeism, in all its forms, greatly contributes to the deterioration of work performance and quality and causes ineffectiveness. Its secondary effects are preoccupying, as its collateral damage is silent and will guide us to the flipside of the coin – absenteeism!
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