Ergonomics done right.®
April 30th, 2008


I still remember the first time I heard the term presenteeism about 5 years ago and chuckled to myself because it was so true. Over the years, it’s been defined several different ways:

  • The New York Times referred to presenteeism as "the problem of workers being on the job but, because of illness, not operating at top form."
  • Webster’s New Millenium Dictionary of English defines presenteeism as "the practice of always being present in the workplace, often working longer hours even when there is nothing to do."

But it’s important to note that presenteeism isn’t just about employees being on the job sick (coughing, sniffles)…it also relates to employees being on the job when

  • they’re not fully engaged (i.e., why should I care?)
  • they’re not satisfied with the job (i.e. little task variety)
  • they’re presented with obstacles (i.e., poor tools, insufficient resources)
  • they’re required to work in poor conditions (i.e., picking up parts off the floor)

As reported in the April 2004 issue of The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, as much as 60 percent of the total cost of worker illness stems from "on-the-job productivity losses" — exceeding what companies spend on medical and disability benefits and sick days.

To conclude this post, I’ll leave you with Jessica Hagy’s sketch as it is a great representation of presenteeism. Note that the Y-axis (job satisfaction) is interchangeable with employee engagement, resources, and work conditions.