The problem with presenteeism
Research funded by the Concordia University Research Chair in Management, Gary Johns and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.
Department of Management
Supervisor: Gary Johns
Presenteeism — going to work while ill — may demonstrate commitment on the part of an employee, but it also poses real consequences for individual well being and organizational output. In the United States, it is estimated that this phenomenon costs the economy $150 billion annually in lost productivity.
To understand the causes and consequences of presenteeism, Mariella Miraglia conducted an extensive meta-analysis of 60 studies on the subject.
“There are several reasons why people go to work ill,” she says. “Larger demands on employees requiring longer hours coupled with increased workload mean that workers don’t feel like they can afford to stay home and get better for risk of being swamped when they return. For other workers, there is the fear of financial loss or of breaking the strict organizational policies used to monitor and reduce absenteeism.”
Attitudes toward the job also play a role. Liking one's job, being affectively committed to the organization, being highly engaged in one's activities motivate the individual to "go the extra mile", trigging pressure to work even in the face of some medical discomfort.
For Miraglia, the ultimate goal of her research is help companies implement human-resource policies and practices — such as health and nutrition programs — that focus on well being and can reduce illness. She also hopes her findings will lead to firms working to better balance workflow and time pressures on employees.