Sometimes, being absent from work is better for you and the business you work for than if you were present that day.

When someone shows up to work but is unproductive as a result of feeling unwell, are distracted by personal issues, or are disengaged from their role, it’s known as presenteeism.

Presenteeism is difficult to detect among employees as they may appear to be working but can be producing less overall over a period of time than they otherwise would. It’s a fairly common issue across many industries in the workforce, where productivity is lost while these staff underperform.

One of the most common causes of presenteeism is ‘company culture’. In situations where you may be ill or would be better off not going to work, you may feel an invisible pressure to go into work regardless. This may be because not going in would place strain on your teammates, taking time off is frowned upon, or that time-sensitive work may not be completed if you were absent. There is a cultural expectation surrounding workplaces about attendance at work – so what can be done to address this?

To combat this, consider:

  • If working full or part-time, you are entitled to taking sick days – using these for illness or for mental health recovery can benefit you and your employer in the long run.
  • Using unused leave time for ‘recovery breaks’ to let you regain yourself
  • Destigmatising the concept of taking time off in the workplace
  • Discussing alternative ways for you to work to prevent burnout and continued presenteeism

As an employee, it is important that you understand your own value and worth – a day off for you is worth more to the employer than a day worked while sick. Discuss with your employer best practices for ensuring that you can be at your best, and whether or not it might be beneficial to take advantage of the proposed sick days above.