Is Presenteeism Hurting Your Business?

You’ve heard about employee absenteeism, but what about presenteeism? This new trend could be equally—or more—destructive to your business as employees calling in “sick” to work.

Presenteeism, where employees are so stressed that simply being present in the workplace is a higher priority than doing their jobs or improving their performances, has risen to 22 percent, according to the latest StressPulseSM survey by ComPsych Corp.

stressed employee

The national survey of 1,880 workers found the number of employees who see “being present” as their top priority is up 3 points from 2011. That’s not the only disturbing finding:

  • More than a third (36 percent) of employees report losing an hour or more per day at work due to stress.
  • Stress is the number one reason for absences, outpacing illness and caregiving as the most frequent reason employees miss work.
  • Just 24 percent of employees claim stress doesn’t impinge on their ability to do an effective job at work.
  • About one-third (32 percent) report constant but manageable stress. However, 63 percent report high levels of stress causing extreme fatigue and feelings of being out of control.
  • What’s behind stress? The top cause, cited by 39 percent, is workload.
  • How do employees handle it? While 36 percent say they just work harder, more than half (53 percent) are taking frequent “stress breaks” at work to talk with others.

Prolonged stress leads to burnout, or perhaps that has already taken hold. And with small business hiring showing no signs of a surge, the problem isn’t likely to change soon.

Said Dr. Richard A. Chaifetz, Chairman and CEO of ComPsych, when announcing the survey results:

“As employers continue to take a wait-and-see approach when it comes to hiring, people who currently have jobs—many of whom have taken on extra work—are starting to show signs of prolonged stress.”

How can you handle employee stress? It’s not easy, especially when you’re probably dealing with the same or greater stress levels.  Here are some tips:

  • Communicate frequently. Assess workloads and stress levels on a regular basis. Be willing to adjust and juggle as needed to give employees a break.
  • Consider how stress impacts performance. If employees are working longer but less effectively, you reach a point of diminishing returns. Is it possible that hiring additional employees could pay for itself by removing bottlenecks and enabling your staff to get more accomplished?
  • If you can’t hire, is there a free solution (a family member, or interns) that could fill in the gaps at least temporarily?
  • Could you “fire a client” who takes more time than they are worth, and use the “extra” time to service more profitable clients while also cutting down employee workload?

The best solution I’ve found for stress is simply acknowledging it exists and talking about it. Encourage employees to take breaks, get rest and otherwise stay in shape to keep feeling motivated — and not just “present.”

Stressed Employee Photo via Shutterstock


Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

2 Reactions
  1. One of the things that you could do to get to know what’s going on the company is start measuring employee engagement.