You’ve probably done it at least once – dragged yourself to work when you’ve woken up feeling a little under the weather. And despite coughing, sneezing, and sniffling (to say the very least), you feel the show must go on.
Well, you wouldn’t be alone. In fact, there’s even a name for it. Say hello to, presenteeism. It’s the act of attending work while sick instead of taking the leave you need. It can be often hard to know whether you should take time out, because no one wants to feel like they’re letting the team – or yourself – down.
According to a recent study in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, high job demands, stress and job insecurity are among the main reasons why people go to work when they are ill.
The study aims to improve understanding of why people go to work when they’re sick (presenteeism) and hopes to help make managers more aware of this climbing phenomenon, what triggers people to do so and what can be done to improve the health and productivity of employees.
The research looked at data from 61 previous studies involving more than 175,960 participants, including the European Working Conditions Survey which sampled employees from 34 countries. And what they found was that those who were well supported at work with colleagues and managers, felt they didn’t have to go to work when ill, and were also more satisfied with their jobs and healthier as a whole.
Some of the findings included that presenteeism not only stems from being sick (and stressed out), but also from raised motivation. Things like high job satisfaction as well and commitment to work (and other things like job insecurity and limited paid sick leave) might make people push themselves more, causing them to work even though their sick.
“This study sheds light on the controversial act of presenteeism, uncovering both positive and negative underlying processes,” said lead author, Dr Miraglia. “It demonstrates that presenteeism is associated with work features and personal characteristics and not only dictated by medical conditions, in contrast to the main perspective of occupational medicine and epidemiology.
“Working while ill can compound the effects of the initial illness and result in negative job attitudes and withdrawal from work. However, the possible negative consequences of being absent can prompt employees to show up ill or to return to work when not totally recovered. Organisations may want to carefully review attendance policies for features which could decrease absence at the cost of increased presenteeism.”
Unfortunately, attending work while you’re sick as a dog is only going to exacerbate your health problem, and might even result in longer periods of sick leave later on. There’s also a pretty good chance you’re going to infect your colleagues and make them sick too.
At the end of the day, if you’re sick you’re sick, and you need to put your health first – sometimes easier said than done, we know.