Best Practices

The Cost of Presenteeism in The Workplace


Recently, Jack Ma’s assertion of the 996 workweek has struck some discordant chords with many people in North America. With good reason as well, while the 996 workweek can work for some, and may be needed in some cases to really drive business, it is 100% counter-intuitive to the North American perception of a work-life balance.

More importantly, it brings up issues that are already being faced in the workplace that no doubt would only get exasperated. Presenteeism, the act of coming to work despite illness, or anxiety etc, often leads to employees showing up to work but not being at their most productive.

In fact, Forbes has reported that after a year-long study, the cost of presenteeism has come to cost businesses in the U.S. more than $150 billion dollars a year. It has become more of a problem than a previous report on absenteeism which costs businesses $84 billion dollars annually. With a total cost of more than $234 billion dollars, there is a definite need for improvement within the workspace.

A recent study conducted by John Pencavel from Stanford University found that productivity after a 50-hour workweek begins declining, and again working more than 55 hours a week produces almost nothing. According to the study, everything done after those initial 55 hours is the equivalent of having not come into work at all.

These conclusions provide the needed proof of Employee Engagement. Not only do environments that foster employee happiness, involving learning and stress-free environments boost productivity, but ensuring that your employees are not putting in an excessive amount of hours, beyond the 50 and 55-hour mark, is better for business.

Illness, PresenteeismPresenteeism due to long working hours results in numerous errors due to fatigue or stress and an overall slowdown in productivity. This suggests that the work produced is both slower and the errors found in them would only result in more time spent fixing those errors, costing businesses more in time paid. If people were truly interested in optimising the workday, according to yet another study, the ideal working hours on a daily basis to completely maximise productivity would be 6 hours a day.

When designing work schedules, it’s important to keep human productivity, happiness, and engagement in mind. You not only want the most out of your employees, but you don’t want to burn them out either. 100 employees working too many hours can be less effective than 25 employees who are not only engaged, which can boost productivity by at least 92% but are working optimally for every hour they are at work.