Monday, 22 october 2018 | Redacción CEU
There are employees who wait for their bosses to leave the office to conclude their workday. There are others workers who constantly look at their phones to check whether they have pending messages in their WhatsApp groups or not. There are also those who, in the absence of tasks to do, cover up for fear of their job being no longer necessary and they will be in danger of being fired. All of them are real and easy-to-find examples in the staff that make up the current business environment in Spain. Presenteeism is a phenomenon rooted in this country but it is not less innocuous for that reason. What are the consequences of having a work system based on presenteeism? How to fight the great evils of "being at work and not working"?
Last week, Adecco published a survey based on 560 interviews with executives and human resources managers which concluded that 43.7% of Spanish companies have detected an abuse of presenteeism by their workers. Being an evil that has afflicted the health of Spanish companies for many years, it is surprising that rather than showing signs of falling, figures do not stop rising instead: more and more organizations confess perceiving symptoms of this phenomenon in their staff.
Before addressing the different reasons which are hidden behind this in-person system of work, it is necessary to deepen into what we understand by "presenteeism". This concept alludes to the physical presence of employees but also their inactivity in the place of work, that is, workers devote part of their working day to perform other functions that have nothing to do with the position for which they have been hired or, simply, they do nothing.
Therefore, presenteeism is the antithesis of absenteeism, since workers never stop showing up at their workplace. However, its effects are as harmful as those of not going to work: decrease in productivity and efficiency, low morale of the staff, burnout syndrome, possible contagion of diseases, low level of quality, increase in the number of accidents at work, proliferation of conflicts between workmates, drain of talent, less ability to attract new professionals, work stress, poor results, etc. These reasons are more than enough to make leaders and HR professionals think about how to mitigate these effects and combat their causes.
One of the most common mistakes of companies is valuing the work of employees on the basis of the time they spend working. This is a feature that has been favored by the culture of face-to-face control that prevails within firms. However, the fact that workers are in the workplace during a certain period of time does not guarantee they will be more productive and obtain better results. In fact, it rather sets out a scenario where the opposite case is more likely to occur.
The main cause of presenteeism is related to the use of the Internet, social networks and email for personal matters. At least, that is what it is indicated in Adecco's report in which 90% of companies confess to have employees in their staff who do presenteeism. According to the same study, in order of greater to lesser importance, they find other reasons like coffee breaks, breakfasts or lunches, smoking, non-compliance with working hours and short and repetitive absences.
Job insecurity also favors presenteeism. When employees suspect that their positions are in danger, they feel vulnerable and bet more on presenteeism; largely due to the culture of control that still prevails in many companies. This is the reason why, on some occasions, workers who suffer from a disease do not apply for sick leave and continue going to work. The contrary may also occur, employees who have been working for the company for a long time can perpetuate a system where bad practices are repeated frequently because they feel surrounded by the impression of security and impunity.
The lack of motivation also encourages the practice of "being present and not working", for example, when workers do not feel recognized or bosses set goals that they consider unattainable. Likewise, excessively long working hours and work overload may contribute to causing this phenomenon, since the professional might feel overwhelmed and become to get blocked. Another of the frequent triggers of this problem is the bad work environment, which has as its most extreme version work harassment. Last but not least, another factor that may lead to presenteeism is the care of children or dependent people, a role which is mainly assumed by women.
The upward trend of this phenomenon in Spain evidences that the focus has not been placed on finding an effective solution to this problem yet. It is true that some companies are trying to stop this kind of behaviors. Even so, their measures are usually limited to the implementation of rules on the control of the entrance and exit of employees or restrictions on Internet and email use. Experts recognize that in order to reduce presenteeism, companies have to resort to other formulas:
At the CEU IAM Business School we are fully aware of the fact that in order to face the challenge in the leadership and the management of people within the human resources sector, it is necessary to count on professionals who are adequately prepared. For this reason, our business school offers a Master's Degree in Human Resources, the Management of Talent and Leadership, which bets on people management, talent, innovation, networking and leadership firmly and clearly.