In Dolly Parton’s iconic 1980’s hit Nine to Five, the Queen of Country famously rued the monotony of daily working life.

Almost forty years after its initial release, the record has maintained its widespread popularity, not just for its memorable harmony, but also for its continued relevance and profound social commentary surrounding stringent working cultures that continues to ring true with workers in contemporary society. 

Dolly’s complains of a professional existence where, “it’s all taking and no giving” isn’t mythical, nor are they representative of an archaic, out-dated mindset – quite the contrary.

The morale of workers occupying jobs whereby flexibility isn’t permitted continues to plummet; as the lady affectionately known as Aunt Granny forecast, “it’s enough to make you crazy – if you let it” and disharmony and lack of productivity amongst such individuals are palpable.

Work flexibility whereby staff are granted freedom to work remotely and manage their working capacity has often been regarded as an alien concept bereft of productivity and positive working outcomes. 

While some uphold their pessimistic viewpoint of flexible working, there’s been a considerable shift in mindset, with more companies recognising the benefits of flexible working and embracing a more liberal mindset. 

Merely being present at work doesn’t necessarily equate to being productive. In such instances, many workers are attending, but aren’t necessarily in the right frame of mind to perform to their optimum potential when continually based within an office environment. 

There are a variety of advantages associated with granting workers greater flexibility, yet persistence and stubbornness remain amongst some bosses who are reluctant to acknowledge how this versatile approach can benefit their company. Leading companies are recognising the benefits of easing the shackles and allowing staff reign to work with greater freedom, so long as their duties are completed.

Conversely, businesses who are yet to incorporate a more flexible working culture are experiencing how presenteeism can set an undesired precedent. Employers at these firms are continuing to promote the viewpoint that being present, irrespective of circumstance, is pivotal, with employee performance suffering as a consequence.

What is Presenteeism? 

Initially, presenteeism was a term used to refer exclusively to employees who attend work with mental or physical ailments, rather than staying at home to recuperate. 

In time, the term has since developed and is used in a broader sense, also referring to employees who come to work even if they are experiencing a period of discontent with their role, i.e. they are not ‘present’ in the way in which they fulfil their job.

Such circumstances derive from circumstances whereby staff are not granted the flexibility by their employees to work from home or take time off when required. For instance, if they are ill or unable to attend work due to personal circumstances.

Why is Presenteeism Problematic?

Presenteeism is common amongst companies who don’t afford their workforce the ability to work with flexibility; this can obstruct the fulfilment of short and long-term targets.

While disengaged staff are physically present, psychologically, they’re often otherwise occupied. If a member of staff isn’t fit for work yet feels the need to attend the workplace, then this can have a damaging impact throughout the structure of a company.

For instance, disengaged members of staff are more likely to make continual errors and in time, the negative mindset of one member of staff can spread; this is otherwise referred to as behavioural contagion, the notion that the low morale and productivity can be adopted by multiple people.

Presenteeism has an overriding impact on many within an organisation. For instance, senior management staff overseeing the performance of their team acknowledge pitfalls in areas for which a disengaged member of staff is responsible, while members of staff picking up the pieces often feel resentful and agitated towards the person in question. 

Yet, this needn’t be the case for any business; instances such as these can easily be avoided by incorporating a more open-minded approach to the way that a workforce is managed, with the introduction of flexible working arrangements.

Why Does Presenteeism Occur?

It’s often the case that presenteeism ensues because staff aren’t afforded the luxuries of well-being perks or aren’t allowed to complete their duties away from the office in some circumstances.

Presenteeism is common in companies where staff are contracted to work long hours and fulfilment of targets and demands are a prime focus, as opposed to the promotion of positive morale and mood amongst the staff members.

Many employees are continuing to work despite being ill for several reasons. For example, they may not be paid if they’re absent or could be deterred from taking time off because they don’t want to be perceived as being lazy or work-shy. 

Moreover, some staff members may have fears surrounding their job security, in which case, the absence could be considered an easy excuse for dismissal. In some cases, continued attendance can simply be attributed to a heavy workload.

Is There a Solution for Presenteeism?

Presenteeism is the by-product of a working environment whereby staff aren’t granted flexibility in their working life. 

Therefore, reassessing company policy and introducing flexible working structure whereby staff don’t need to be present, can take time off from the office where required and orchestrate their workload accordingly is essential for the generation of a healthy working environment.

Presenteeism is a drain on resources, efficiency and overall output and continues to impact overall business performance. Businesses promoting the sentiment that being present is pivotal are in many ways architects of their downfall and could solve these obstacles with the introduction of a less rigid company policy whereby their staff are encouraged to seize control of their working life.

Why Should Employers Embrace Workplace Flexibility?

Approaching workplace flexibility willingly and incorporating an adaptable working environment communicates to staff members that they’re respected and trusted by senior management within a company. 

Moreover, treating team members in the right way often prompts long-term commitment amongst staff members to a company and adopting a collaborative mindset which, in turn, enhances the overall quality of the culture within an institution.

Sometimes, it’s considered that flexibility leads to greater levels of absenteeism. However, studies have specified that companies who have introduced greater flexibility have recorded fewer instances of absence and reductions in staff turnover. This can be attributed to the element of trust between employer and employee improving when staff are presented with an opportunity to manage their day-to-day lives. 

Embracing work flexibility and dispelling a reluctance to continually be present within the workplace not only greatly benefits employees – this mindset can have a profound, positive impact for employers.

For instance, if a company’s workforce doesn’t necessarily need to be office-based, this presents a golden opportunity for widespread expansion. Recruitment opportunities are not only made available domestically but also globally, with a repertoire of technological advancements such as Skype, Microsoft Teams, Slack and Google Hangouts essentially negating the need for workers to be office-based. 

Such innovations mean that distance is irrelevant, improving the capacity for employers to promote greater flexibility amongst their staff and overall production.

Don’t rue the day when company morale hits rock bottom. Call Triple Three Solutions on 0333 050 3330 to discuss ways in which your company can avoid the pitfalls of presenteeism and maintain performance.