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Absenteeism and Presenteeism

Author(s): Rebecca Dias

According to a study by Grigore (2020), 62% of workers called in absent when they weren’t ill. This is one form of absenteeism, which can simply be defined as not going to work. There are definitely legitimate reasons to be absent, such as illness or injury. There is also delinquent absenteeism, which is when an employee is commonly absent after weekends, holidays, or particular days of the week (Grigore, 2020). This is why it’s so important for Human Resources to track absenteeism so they can start recognizing these patterns, and instilling discipline in those who are abusing the system.

There are a few types of absenteeism. Medical absenteeism, where an employee is absent because of an actual illness and generally has a doctor’s note to cover their absence. There is also planned absenteeism, where a supervisor is made aware of the absence at least 2 days prior to the absence, and does not generally impact business (Grigore, 2020). There is also spontaneous absenteeism, which is absenteeism with little warning. This type is generally detrimental to businesses and can be costly. Sometimes new employees will be absent because they feel like they don’t fit in yet or that they aren’t a benefit to the company (Grigore, 2020). Generally, employees with more years of experience tend to be absent less than junior employees (Bennedsen et al., 2017).

In most cases, absenteeism is detrimental to a company. However, there are cases where absenteeism benefits a company, such as when an employee’s sickness affects their ability to concentrate on the job. We wouldn’t want a surgeon or someone with a highly important job performing their work while not feeling 100%, this could lead to more damage than if the surgeon stayed home. This also goes for any employee in any business.

Absenteeism can mean in increase in the cost of labour, decreased productivity, and can create undisciplined employees. It can also cause production setbacks, and services that are not high quality. (Grigore, 2020). Interestingly enough, according to Grigore (2020), workers missed less days than others the more educated they were, and job satisfaction is obviously highly related to absenteeism. Workers tend to miss more work if they consider their workplace to not be cohesive (Grigore, 2020), people want to build relationships with their coworkers. This makes work more meaningful and would make you less likely to be absent than in a workplace lacking this team-oriented culture.

Employees are also less likely to be absent if they feel appreciated, a lot of employees are absent because their efforts are not recognized and they feel that maybe at another workplace they would be (Grigore, 2020). Which doesn’t make a lot of sense if you think about it because employees who have more absences are not as likely to receive a promotion, and they are also more likely to get fired from their work (Bennedsen et al., 2017).

Presenteeism, can be defined as showing up to work even if you feel ill (Bryan et al., 2022). There are many reasons someone may show up to work not feeling the best. Firstly, there are financial implications if you stay home, so showing up to work ensures you get paid. You could also be like me and are extremely proud of not missing a day of work in four years, but that’s also a little obsessive and may be motivated by fear. Some people also feel they have a lot of responsibility at work and would be letting their team members down by being absent, or are racing to meet a deadline and can’t afford to miss work (Bryan et al., 2022).

People practicing presenteeism may think that they are helping their organization by not missing work, however presenteeism really does affect an employee’s performance and productivity, which in turn hurts the organization because they can’t be as productive as their fellow employees (Bregenzer et al., 2022). Generally, the more stressed an employee is, and the less they feel appreciated, the more likely they are to engage in presenteeism. Basically, employee appreciation increases resources which are used to cope with stress (Bregenzer et al., 2022). Employee appreciation decreases presenteeism (Bregenzer et al., 2022).

Another reason people may engage in presenteeism is because they are afraid that their absences due to illnesses could be attackable by Human Resources down the road during performance reviews and general disciplinary meetings. People are afraid to stay home because they don’t want to lose their jobs. This I assume decreased during the pandemic, as the fear or infecting others has become a massive weight on people’s shoulders. People don’t know if another employee has someone who is considered high risk at home.

Generally, employees working in conditions that are unfavourable, employees that experience high levels of demand at work, and employees who do not feel appreciated may increase absenteeism and presenteeism (Brunner et al., 2017). Both can result in a loss of productivity and both can be very costly to the company.

Based on my research I would make the following recommendations. Have a cohesive work culture that places importance on the notion of employees working together as a team. Employees are less likely to be absent if they feel included. Employers should have actual policies that focus on improving the mental and physical health of their employees to prevent absenteeism and presenteeism in the workplace. Lowering rates of stress among employees is very important in general and can help prevent absenteeism and presenteeism. Giving employees resources at work to deal with their stress may enable them to feel more comfortable staying home when they are ill. A great importance should be placed on managers appreciating their employees, this goes back to having a cohesive work culture. Employees are less likely to be absent if they feel appreciated by their managers and supervisors.

One thing that has helped me not call in sick once at my new job in 2 years, is flexible working hours. I get one work from home day per week, and I chose Fridays to be that day so every weekend I feel as though I am actually getting a break. This enables me to not feel sick of my job during the week, and enables me to stay motivated throughout the week. Working a 5+ day week can be a lot, I would highly recommend that any company who can give their employees work from home days, should.

Another thing employers can do to reduce absenteeism and presenteeism is to have good EFAP (Employee and Family Assistance Programs). When companies provide resources to help deal with their stress, employees will be less stressed and feel more appreciated, and as stated earlier appreciation reduces absenteeism. EFAP programs can include access to different types of therapists depending on the employee’s needs, as well as access to psychiatrists and others who can help those with debilitating disorders or situational stress.

Overall, employers need to show they care about their employees, whether it be through the work culture, EFAP programs, and general interactions from day to day. It seems that may be the secret to preventing absenteeism and presenteeism.


Bennedsen, M., Tsoutsoura, M., Wolfenzon, D. (2017). Drivers of effort: Evidence from employee absenteeism. Stockholm School of Economics

Bregenzer, A., Jimenez, P., Milfelner, B. (2022). Appreciation at work and the effect on employees’ presenteeism. IOS Press, 73(1), 109-120. doi: 10.3233/WOR-210766

Brunner, B., Igic, I., Keller, A. C., & Wieser, S. (2019). Who gains the most from improving working conditions? Health-related absenteeism and presenteeism due to stress at work. The European Journal of Health Economics, 20(8), 1165–1180.

Bryan, M. L., Bryce, A. M., & Roberts, J. (2022). Dysfunctional presenteeism: Effects of physical and mental health on work performance. The Manchester School, 90(4), 409– 438.

Grigore, O. M. (2020). Factors contributing to work-related absenteeism during the COVID-19 pandemic. Management Dynamics in the Knowledge Economy. 8(4), 401-418, doi: 10.2478/mdke2020-0026

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