Presenteeism: Working whereas sick or burnt out? SA psychiatrist explains why it’s a nasty thought | Health24

  • Working whereas burnt out or bodily sick can negatively affect the nation’s financial system in addition to your personal well being.
  • An area psychiatrist and lecturer at Stellenbosch Business School says it is essential to ‘change off’ from work.
  • She gives tips to fight ‘presenteeism’ for each employers and workers.

Do you typically work regardless of being bodily sick, confused, or burnt out? It is named ‘presenteeism’, and analysis exhibits that it comes at a larger financial price than absenteeism.

According to 1 skilled, workers who present up and try to work regardless of their poor psychological well being prices South Africa nearly seven instances as a lot in misplaced productiveness as workers who’re absent because of melancholy. 

“In ‘normal’ times, poor mental health and various personal and work stress factors are key underlying causes of presenteeism, with people often feeling pressured to show up even though they are not fit for work,” stated psychiatrist and head of the MBA in Healthcare Leadership programme at Stellenbosch Business School, professor Renata Schoeman.

She added: “Now, in the era of Covid, with increased fears of job security and heightened scrutiny by managers of remote working employees, the pressure to be virtually, if not physically present, to be ‘always on’ and prove that one is productive while working from home is even greater.”

Sadly, many individuals are additionally experiencing elevated monetary stress, and juggling residence and childcare tasks. This is making it tougher to “switch off” and set clear boundaries between their work lives and their residence and private lives.

The price of psychological health-related presenteeism alone has been estimated at R235 billion (4.2% of GDP), versus R33 billion yearly for absenteeism.


Speaking throughout Corporate Wellness Week, which runs from 4–8 July and goals to enhance wellness practices within the office, Schoeman stated that there was a pointy enhance globally in stress ranges, a decreased sense of wellbeing, and psychological well being situations corresponding to melancholy and nervousness.

In March this 12 months, the World Health Organization (WHO) indicated that the pandemic triggered a 25% increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide, and stated that this was a wake-up name to international locations to step up their psychological well being providers and help.

Similarly, the American Psychological Association noted that throughout this time, burnout and stress have been at all-time highs throughout professions, because of longer working hours and elevated calls for at residence.

But there are answers to presenteeism, stated Schoeman. These embrace addressing organisational tradition and poisonous working environments which prize working longer hours and workers being “always on”.

Instead, what ought to occur is the modelling and valuing of wholesome behaviour, logging off and having a greater work-life stability. 

She additionally really helpful the next:

  • Flexible working hours for sickness 
  • Reviewing sick depart insurance policies
  • Implementing work-from-home absenteeism insurance policies
  • Valuing output over time enter

In the UK alone, presenteeism was the most important contributor to psychological well being prices to employers – at roughly £26 billion (R500 billion) in 2021 – a current report revealed. That determine is round 4.5 instances the price of absenteeism, which exhibits the pressing want for the above ideas to be applied within the office.

What to look out for

There are sure indicators that an worker is participating in e-presenteeism, associated to the Covid-19 pandemic and the fast shift in working patterns. These embrace:

  • Lower ranges of productiveness 
  • More errors or a decrease commonplace of labor 
  • An absence of care about outcomes and output
  • Starting late or ending early 
  • Putting in additional hours however producing much less 
  • Looking drained in digital conferences 

Importantly, presenteeism can have severe results, particularly within the bodily work setting, the place it may result in accidents or spreading illness when people who find themselves bodily sick come to work, stated Schoeman. 

“At lower levels, people are often working with dangerous machinery, working night shifts or working as long-distance drivers. Stress, anxiety and depression affect their ability to concentrate and so they are more prone to accidents, with potentially costly or even fatal results,” she defined. 

People who work at an govt degree might endure compromised judgement and decision-making talents due to poor psychological well being, and this could have severe penalties for the organisation, she added. 

Schoeman has a few useful tips for employers and managers to keep away from e-presenteeism:

Reassure workers that their well being and wellbeing are a precedence

If they’re genuinely sick, they need to take the required day without work, even when they’re working from residence.

Have common one-on-one check-ins with workers

This can be a digital check-in. Employees ought to really feel comfy talking about their wellbeing and stress ranges. If there’s a trusting relationship between employers and workers, the latter will probably be extra more likely to disclose any psychological well being challenges that they’re fighting earlier than they become extra severe situations.

Encourage workers to ‘switch off’

Once their shift has ended, workers ought to be inspired to log off, shut their laptops and take time for a leisure exercise on the finish of the distant working day.

Review sick depart and absence insurance policies and procedures

Where wanted, employers ought to think about giving workers a psychological well being day over and above formal sick depart.

Ensure that sick depart insurance policies and pay are ample

This will assist curb presenteeism attributable to the monetary worries of shedding earnings. Says Schoeman: “Consider the cost of adequate sick pay against the cost of an unproductive ‘presentee’ employee.”

Train and encourage managers to guide by instance

Managers ought to promote wholesome working habits and bounds somewhat than an “always on” tradition, including:

If managers don’t change off themselves when they aren’t properly, workers may even really feel pressured to work once they shouldn’t be.

Reward and recognise output and outcomes

Focusing on this somewhat than the hours labored will result in higher worker wellbeing.

Encourage workers to take their annual depart

Taking depart is essential. You would possibly really feel that you’re indispensable, however suspending sure duties or initiatives is preferable to struggling an eventual breakdown. 

Review office wellness initiatives

These may embrace reductions on gyms and health programmes or on-line health and wholesome residing apps; psychological well being “first aiders” for first-line counselling or talks and workshops on work-life stability; and sources to handle bodily, psychological and monetary wellness.

READ | Gratitude in direction of co-workers will help them handle stress and work stress higher

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READ | Mental well being within the office: A 3rd of South Africans resign from their jobs due to a nasty boss

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