Presenteeism, Absenteeism and Disengagement

Today, the head of the United States Institute of Health and Productivity told TV ONE’s Breakfast programme how the issue of presenteeism adversely affects business performance.

Sean Sullivan defined presenteeism as “employees whose ability to work is compromised by a health problem and they’re there but they’re not fully there.”

See the post “People Management” for the true cost of employing staff. Presenteeism is yet another pressure on the bottom line for Business New Zealand.

Not only do SMEs (bearing in mind that 99% of New Zealand organisations are SMEs and 87% of the total number employ 5 or fewer people) have to function encumbered by absenteeism and legislated sick days that people take by way of entitlement whether they are sick or not, but now we realise that many of those at work are not productive either! A report on the website “Management Issues” puts the cost to the UK economy of presenteeism as high as £13bn.

Examples of presenteeism are wide ranging, including seasonal allergies, chronic pain, diabetes, arthritis, mental problems and emotional issues, all of which impact on people’s concentration, accuracy and productivity in general.

It is a wonder any businesses in New Zealand have any profit at all when you consider the fact that only 1% of our organisations have economies of scale (100+ staff) where the less productive can be carried by the others to some extent without it having a fatal effect on the bottom line. The fact is very few do, or at best the profit is a fraction of what the business owners went into business to achieve.

My particular interest is in the third category (although I can understand most of the focus going on the more visible former two issues.) Disengaged staff are not “employed” as such. Yes, they draw a salary or wage, but what they do each day is “change location” from home to work, and do very little to contribute to the effective functioning of the business. Indeed, many get in the way of others trying to do so.
These people are very adept at appearing productive. But generally their colleagues can see right through this and wonder why management a) can’t see it and/or b) won’t do something about it. The message? High performance is not that important to the business.

For a business to be successful – more so in New Zealand than anywhere else because of our scale challenges – every individual has to be fully engaged………head and heart on the job for the time that they are at work. What they do in their own time is up to them but surely it is reasonable to expect that if they are paid their full entitlement come pay day, then they can be expected to be fully contributing during work hours.

As a country (at a time when we are hearing weekly about the skilled people we are losing to Australia) only when we address this issue head on can we hope to improve our overall domestic performance, and strive for the level of earnings we all know is possible.


About Cherri Holland

Fascinated with business, brains and how to use the brains on the payroll to make business buzz.
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