Absenteeism is an unavoidable part of any business. However, it’s not the only part of employee health and wellbeing that can affect an organisation.  

Anyone who’s stumbled into work with a splitting headache or full of cold will be able to tell you that… 


What is Presenteeism? 


Presenteeism refers to times when employees come into work but are largely unproductive.  

You will usually notice this when someone comes into the office feeling ill or when they’re struggling with problems outside of work that distract them from their role. 

In fact, a 2017 Working Lives Report by Aviva found that 7 in 10 people have gone to work even though they were unwell. 

In reality, they should probably be at home taking care of themselves but thanks to an age-old culture problem, they feel they need to show up anyway. 

Image displaying the difference between absenteeism and presenteeism

Office Myths: Presence ≠ Loyalty 


We’ve seen a lot of executives and leaders become quite obsessed with presenteeism. Especially when there was more demand for people to be in the office.  

Another study by Aviva found that 43% of workers felt business performance was put ahead of their health and wellbeing. 

Unfortunately, that mindset for some organisations hasn’t changed. Even after the pandemic, we’ve seen so many remain reluctant to allow flexibility and freedom. There is still a requirement for many workers to be in the office full-time.  

With this, both leaders and other employees often feel that you need to be seen to be trusted.  

If I can’t see you, how do I know you’re being productive? How do I know you’re working? 

Because of this culture, too many people just want to be present, even though they’re not being productive. But by doing so, they could be impacting other people’s productivity as well. 


Changing With The Times 


Thankfully, we have seen other organisations come around to the idea of flexible working and hybrid or remote models. We are starting to see a culture of trust that allows employees to prioritise their own wellbeing while remaining productive. 

In the past, loyalty and commitment meant staying with an organisation for 15 to 20 years. But now, people are likely to move jobs more regularly, with the average tenure period in 2020 being just four years. 

Instead of being seen as a red flag, this can now be considered a sign of willingness and desire for career progression. Loyalty is now demonstrated in different ways such as delivering high-quality work and meeting deadlines. 

The ridiculous culture that saw people sitting at their desks simply because their manager was still in the office has begun to fade away. We’re now looking at what people contribute to the organisation, no matter where they work or how many hours they put in.  

Furthermore, digital workspaces have helped organisations in many ways. 

It’s improved their ability to attract candidates while building the ideal team of people they may not have met otherwise. Without limiting the location there is more scope to identify people from across the country who are the perfect fit for a role, bringing wider experience, skills and knowledge. 

It’s also allowed employees to build a better work-life balance and prioritise health and wellbeing more than ever. 


3R Strategy Recommends: 


1. Allowing hybrid or flexible working 

hybrid workingHybrid working models have encouraged organisations to focus more on employee contribution as opposed to physical presence in the office. This enables you to develop trust and recognise that employees can be just as productive—if not more— working remotely than they can be in the office. 

A culture of trust will inevitably lead to more engaged employees. Recognising the contribution they make and rewarding this will reinforce those behaviours. 

Presenteeism can also lead to extended periods of absence as employees do not give themselves time to get better— making it harder and slower to recover. Hybrid working allows them to step away when needed, without the fear of seeming lazy or unproductive. 


2. Increasing use of digital tools 

digital toolsSlack, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Google Meets, Monday.com, ClickUp. These are just a handful of the many digital tools available to organisations today. 

The introduction of these platforms has made it easier for employees to work effectively without needing to be physically present. Despite this fact, 54% of workers in the UK felt obliged to attend the office at some point during the pandemic. 

A digital workspace can offer fewer distractions and provide higher levels of productivity across the business. That means people can get more things done more quickly, leaving time for family, hobbies and rest that all ensure positive health and wellbeing for employees. 


3. Introducing guidance for leaders 

guidance for leadersIn order to combat presenteeism, leaders need to start adapting their expectations and attitudes to productivity.  

Emphasising the importance of results and contribution rather than hours worked can create a more flexible and productive work environment. By focusing on outcomes, leaders can better utilise employees who are highly efficient and capable of meeting tight deadlines, ultimately benefiting the organisation as a whole. 

In order to do this, we can do a few things: 

  • Set clear objectives: Focus on outcomes, ensuring each team member understands their role. 
  • Prioritise tasks: Help employees align tasks with the organisation’s goals. 
  • Establish key performance indicators (KPIs): Measure results and quality of work, not hours worked. 
  • Encourage autonomy: Allow team members to manage their schedules and work at their own pace. 
  • Reward employees: Show meaningful appreciation, valuing results and dedication over time spent. 


Recognising Contribution 

Tackling presenteeism, once seen as a sign of commitment, is slowly becoming a priority for more organisations. It recognises the value of a healthy work-life balance and the potential for increased productivity.  

The rise of remote and hybrid work has further accelerated this shift in mindset, as leaders adapt to managing a more distributed workforce. To combat presenteeism effectively, it is crucial for companies to focus on fostering trust, encouraging open communication, and providing support to their employees.  

By embracing these principles and prioritising employee wellbeing, organisations can create a more engaged, productive, and loyal workforce that is well-equipped to navigate the modern work environment. 


Our ethos at 3R Strategy is to focus on outputs versus inputs. It’s better to produce quality work than it is to work all the hours in the world – but we must remember that we’ve all worked with a five-day week for a long time and there are complexities in unpicking that. If you would like to discuss any of the areas raised here around future changes for your organisation, please do get in touch.