How to Spot Presenteeism

Debra Lerner, a senior scientist at the Tufts Medical Center Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies (ICRHPS), defines "presenteeism" as a "state of compromised ability to perform in one's job role." It's a workplace phenomenon that accounts for a 2 percent to 3 percent loss in worker productivity across all industries, according to Lerner. Lerner presented researching findings about this trend during a March 6 Harvard Business Review webinar. While the phenomenon isn't unique to IT, CIOs and other IT leaders would do well to heed its findings given the high-stress circumstances under which many technology departments are forced to operate. Absenteeism is easy to define - people don't feel well, they stay home. It gets trickier is when all isn't completely well - think depression, migraines, back pain, stress - but dutiful workers still show up, putting in performances below their capabilities. While difficult to measure, "It tells us how well people are functioning in the workplace," said Lerner. The ICRHPS has developed an application for measuring presenteeism and a model for addressing it. A national study is underway, but a single early case study yielded dramatic results. The Work and Health Initiative (WHI) test group improved time management, for example, by nearly 40 percent, while traditional care led to a 2 percent increase. WHI results could also translate to annual savings in productivity of more than $6,000 per participant. "The data are suggesting that this multi-modal, functional approach to intervention is both feasible and, it seems ... effective," said Lerner.

This article was originally published on 03-13-2012
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