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The Costs that Lurk

 Beneath the Surface

Presenteeism is 10 times more costly than absenteeism!


A 2004 Harvard Business School review, “Presenteeism - at work  but out of it”,  was a new revelation at the time. While medical & pharmaceutical costs, workers short term and long term disability payments and absenteeism losses were more obvious and traceable, presenteeism was just a vague and foggy notion. It was not so obvious to see with naked eye and it was not in the radar scope of most corporate leaders either.


The sad part is that most workers want to be good and productive employees. They try hard to stay engaged. Relationship of a worker to his or her company is much like a marriage. No one gets married planning to get divorced but at times, employees become the victim of circumstances.


Presenteeism goes against employees' morale and self-esteem. It is humiliating and yet, sometimes it is the only coping mechanism they can come up with to keep their jobs and survive.


Now, 10 years later, it is finally becoming well understood that presenteeism is a huge loss to corporations in many different ways. It is that silent body of the iceberg, hiding beneath the surface that is a peril to the corporation’s structural hull.





















What does presenteeism look like?

Employees go to work but…

  • Show up with colds, migraine headaches, back aches and fatigue.

  • Have low levels of motivation.

  • Have lower than average productivity. Work just enough to keep their jobs.

  • Fall asleep at their desks.

  • Surf the internet, check emails frequently, text message often, engage in negative gossip, spend a gread deal of time on their phone & take frequent breaks.

  • Try to look busy when in sight: Walking fast, carrying "stuff".

  • Treat coworkers poorly.

  • Treat customers with disrespect.

  • Berate their company and their management team.


Health financial losses: the largest share of corporate health financial losses, a hefty 63%, are attributed to presenteeism while only 6% to absenteeism and a total of 7% to short-term & long-term disabilities.


Loss of productivity: The yearly financial losses due to decreased productivity in the US corporations is estimated to be 180 billion dollars. 


Loss of workforce morale: Workers with presenteeism often affect the other workers in a negative way. It is hard to see your colleague suffering. Besides, negative vibes are contagious.


Loss of engagement with workplace:  Most of the times, stress, lack of satisfaction and disabilities lead to worker presenteeism. If there is no company support, they progress to full disengagement. But sometimes disengaged workers, even if not disabled, manifest presenteeism as a coping mechanism or a way to get back at their employer. It is a fair assumption to say, one way or another, presenteeism and disengagement go hand-in-hand.


Loss of customer satisfaction and loyalty: Disengaged workers simple don’t care enough about their company anymore and that is reflected in their interactions with customers and other employees.


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