Is Presenteeism Hurting Your Workforce?

Source: Robin J. Samuel and Laura M. Wilson, Employee Benefit Plan Review, May 2007

It is a familiar problem. You hear a sneeze in the next cubicle, and you know it is only a matter of time before cold germs reach you and others working nearby. The cycle continues endlessly, as employees who come down with common colds or mild illnesses elect to work rather than stay home, and thereby continue the spread of illness through the workplace. A new buzzword has been coined to describe this phenomenon: Presenteeism. According to, “presenteeism” is defined as “the feeling that one must show up for work even if one is too sick, stressed, or distracted to be productive.” Recent studies indicate that presenteeism is a growing problem for U.S. employers, prompting human resources professionals to ask whether the hidden costs of the phenomenon must be addressed.

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