Most HR professionals define presenteeism as “sick at work” or “present in the flesh, but not in spirit.” Fearing dismissal, a pileup of work, or not getting paid for the time they aren’t at work, employees often come to work sick, making them less effective, more prone to making mistakes, and putting their coworkers at risk of catching their illness. In addition, they can make themselves worse by not allowing themselves the rest and recuperation that they need to recover.
In fact, presenteeism can cost the company much more than just the absence of the employee. Americans estimate that due to this phenomenon, companies lose billions of dollars every year.
But illness is just one of the reasons an employee can be “absent in spirit.” Presenteeism is one of the real epidemics of our times. Millions of people do jobs that they are not interested in, so they are not fully involved in what they do. They follow the procedures and rules that are set for them, but cannot or are not interested in influencing them. Tiredness and fatigue can influence not only your professional life, but it bleeds into your home life as well. Presenteeism can show up in life and relationships, causing people to – in a word – “coast” through life. Does this mean that most people are lazy by nature? That would be hard to believe…
But that was 20 years ago… in the meantime the way we work has changed and new reasons have arisen. Employees have become more and more specialized in doing only one activity, or have been pigeonholed into completing a single step of the whole process. This is one way to reduce hiring costs – employees are trained in one area and, as the number of tasks they must perform is limited, it is an excuse for the employer to pay them less. As a result, more and more positions have become inherently repetitive, resulting in fatigue and a sense of being separated from reality.
Another reason is that work is becoming increasingly sedentary. Computers help us work, but having all of the data we need at our fingertips keeps us from getting up, even to check documents or books filed on the shelves. Colleagues from other floors communicate via e-mail rather than taking the few steps necessary to walk to a different department. Even for dinner, we order pizza that is delivered to our doorstep. It all serves to keep us working smoothly, but unfortunately, with less movement comes more fatigue. And after work? We don’t seem to have the energy to do anything. A sedentary, uninvolved lifestyle makes us tired and steals our willingness to do anything after work beyond what we have to do.
But enough doom and gloom, what can we do to fix this? The antidote to this problem is to live with passion and commitment. Let’s start with an entry on Frank Forencich’s blog (which is just one of many fantastic articles on his website). He is the founder of the organization “Exhuberant Animal: http://blog.exuberantanimal.com/learned-exuberance/
***Photos: Rafał Janicki
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