Essential terms used by HR and their meanings.


Presenteeism, the act of an employee working when, for any one of a variety of reasons they should not, can lead to a multitude of productivity and wellbeing issues. HR teams should consider ways of measuring presenteeism to ensure it is not an endemic practice that is going unnoticed in the organisation. Long-term patterns of presenteeism will dramatically increase likelihood of employee burnout and potentially trigger periods of absenteeism.

What is presenteeism

Presenteeism can manifest in a variety of behaviours, which individually or in combination, can lead to degradation of an employees or even team performance. HR teams and managers should be monitoring these behaviours to ensure an educated judgement can be made on what is acceptable ‘above and beyond’ activity from a highly motivated workforce, and what is dangerous or indicative of wider organisational issues. Areas to monitor include:

  • Attending work despite being sick – Employees that either work through illness or rush back to work too quick following an illness related absence are a significant concern. In cases where employees have infectious illnesses, this can lead to the spread to others and coming back to work too early has serious wellbeing implications.

  • Working overtime regularly – The dedication and commitment to work overtime is often seen as a positive behaviour, however when this is the norm rather than dictated by activity peaks, it can be a trigger for eroded productivity and wellbeing issues related to stress. In situations where overtime pay is awarded, it may also be an indication of financial wellbeing pressures.

  • Coming into work on the weekend or during holidays – Much in the same way that excessive overtime can be indicative of a presenteeism issue, continuing to work frequently on weekends or holidays should be taken as a potential warning sign. This behaviour can frequently lead to social wellbeing issues with friends and family as working during days off is likely to infringe on social activities.

  • Working outside of work hours – Even more insidious than working excessive overtime, working outside of agreed hours can lead to a significant amount of work happening without the knowledge of other team members and managers. Without transparency of the extra efforts being made, this may go unrecognised and unrewarded, leading to demotivation, but can also mean that the full picture of the workload, the employee is currently experiencing, is not understood.

  • Answering calls and emails (staying ‘contactable’ or ‘logged-in’) – Especially in hybrid working environments, it is tempting to be ‘always on’ as modern technology and collaborative tools make it easy to dip in and out of work conversations. This can lead to an unhealthy and unproductive division of focus without sufficient separation of personal time and space from the professional.

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Cost of presenteeism

  • Productivity loss – Prolonged periods of excessive attendance increase the likelihood of burnout and loss of focus. The most overt impact this has is on individual and team productivity and quality of work. Significant periods of overworking are therefore a false economy as quality diminishes as working hours increases.

  • Poor health and exhaustionIn extreme cases, presenteeism will create conditions that lead to physical exhaustion. Rising stress levels, potential disruption to sleep patterns, attempting to return to work before fully recovered from an illness, all have long-term impacts on individual wellness.

  • Workplace epidemics – This can take two forms – the first is the introduction of an infectious illness through a return to a physical workplace before medically acceptable, leading to even more work hours lost as other employees are absent. The second is an epidemic of presenteeism as it is tempting for people to mirror patterns they see in co-workers and managers, this can generate high levels of burnout and mental exhaustion, so considering what the best example to set for employees to create the right organisational culture is important.

Measuring presenteeism

As alluded to, it can be very tricky in some situations to identify and monitor behaviour indicative of presenteeism. Some areas to consider include:

  • Staffing levels – Understanding the staffing levels at the team and organisational level, looking for consistent periods of overtime or out of hours working, can help identify areas where support may be needed and opportunities for teams to support other parts of the organisation.

  • High workloads – Creating heat maps, project timelines and forecasting potential areas of intensive effort can assist in proactively planning things like usage of holiday, managing breaks on a day-to-day basis, or even when flexible working hours may be beneficial.

  • Monitoring and benchmarking – The needs of each organisation are unique, establishing processes to monitor when and for how long employees are working can help you build up a series of benchmarks that can aid managers and HR teams in proactively addressing presenteeism risk before they develop into major problems.

  • Creating a presenteeism policy – Providing clarity on when and why employees are expected to turn off not only empowers employees to actively separate their work and personal time but also sets the expectation for this behaviour at all levels.

Guide to your company’s payroll maturity

Guide to your company’s payroll maturity

In the shape-shifting wake of COVID-19, companies the world over are renewing efforts to improve operational efficiency and cut costs, anticipating the difference these actions could make to their longer-term business performance.

The pandemic exposed lingering structural problems in payroll, revealing a pressing need for the function to evolve from unpredictable and reactive to data-driven and strategic.

These issues look set to intensify as firms face ongoing difficulties in recruiting payroll professionals with sufficient strategic, technical and analytical know-how.

Download this report covers:

  • Why payroll maturity matters

  • The three phases towards transformation

  • The technological capabilities needed to expand

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