Clement May Blogs

How to Combat Presenteeism

Ever gone into work with a splitting headache or horrendous back pain? Maybe you’re one of thousands of tech employees who’s stayed in the office past 10pm, getting very little done, just so as not to appear a slacker? Presenteeism – showing up to work for the sake of appearances when you’re ill or otherwise not performing at optimum levels – is as big a problem as ever. Report after report shows that the phenomenon costs organisations billions in profits every year in lost hours, with tech companies of all scales especially prone. So what can CTOs and senior IT managers do to minimise presenteeism? Here’s our top five suggestions:

Look past appearances

We’ve all had colleagues who are capable of Oscar-worthy performances when it comes to their apparent productivity. “God,” they exclaim, when another employee arrives for work at 9am, “I’m wiped, been here since 7 this morning.”

A 2015 study conducted at a US management consultancy firm found that 31 percent of men and 11 percent of female employees had mastered this art of appearing to be workaholics. These workers had taken to subterfuge in order to meet corporate expectations – disappearing from the office without telling anyone, for example, or secretly making arrangements with colleagues so they could spend time with family. Worryingly, the tactics worked. These ‘shirking’ workers were perceived as equally as productive as their genuinely hard working colleagues, and rewarded accordingly. To avoid this highly damaging problem, it’s down to bosses to encourage and implement humane hours and to keep track of real productivity levels in an appropriate way.

Get to the root of the problem

Unrealistically high workloads can all too easily lead to employees avoiding taking time off, fearing that they’re likely to burden colleagues and/or return to the office with a daunting mountain of work to get through. It’s down to senior managers to combat this issue – support, communication and realistic distribution of tasks are absolutely key to reducing work-related stress and all the problems it brings. Look to companies such as Google and Appster for tech company-specific tactics for dealing with it successfully and dynamically, from workplace venting sessions to company-sponsored fitness programs.

Flexible working means increased productivity

Successfully implemented flexible working policies have been shown time and again to have a huge impact on presenteeism. Despite common perceptions, it’s not just working parents who can benefit from genuine workplace flexibility – if it’s done right, studies have shown that it increases productivity and profits, while reducing stress and presenteeism. There’s plenty of guidance out there at various levels for forward-thinking companies looking to try it for themselves, from set ‘no meeting’ days to full blown abolition of prescribed office hours.