Presenteeism Plague: Are You Working Yourself Sick? (And How to Stop!)

Imagine this: you wake up feeling feverish, achy, and utterly unfit for work. But a nagging sense of duty (or maybe it’s your inbox overflowing like a volcano?) compels you to soldier through the day.You’re not alone. A recent UK study revealed a shocking truth: a whopping 68% (that’s 21.7 million!) of workers admit to powering through illness while on the job [1].

This phenomenon, known as presenteeism, isn’t just a personal struggle – it’s a symptom of a larger cultural issue. Let’s delve deeper into the “why” behind presenteeism and explore ways to break free from this unhealthy cycle.

Why Do We Work While Sick?

The reasons for presenteeism are complex and multifaceted:

  • Workload Woes: A staggering 25% of workers feel buried under an avalanche of tasks, making taking a sick day seem like a luxury they can’t afford [2].
  • Indispensability Trap: Many (23%) believe they’re the irreplaceable linchpin holding everything together. Taking a break feels like letting the team down.
  • The Burden of Expectation: Another 22% worry about overburdening colleagues with extra work during their absence.
  • Remote Work Blues: The flexibility of remote work can be a double-edged sword. With work readily accessible from home, 17% feel pressured to stay “on” even when unwell.
  • Peer Pressure and Bossy Bosses: Let’s face it, not all workplaces foster a supportive environment. Some employees (13%) feel judged by colleagues for taking sick days, while others (9%) fear repercussions from superiors.
  • Financial Fallout: The financial realities can’t be ignored. Eighteen percent of workers confess to working while sick due to concerns about missing a paycheck, and 10% avoid sick leave altogether because of unpaid leave policies.
  • The Stigma of Illness: Believe it or not, some employees (nearly 10%) face skepticism from managers when calling in sick, adding insult to injury.

The Price of Presenteeism:

Presenteeism hurts everyone involved. Here’s why:

  • Reduced Productivity: Working while sick can lead to a decline in focus, accuracy, and overall output. An ill employee is likely operating well below their potential.
  • Increased Errors: Let’s be honest, battling a bug can make even the simplest tasks feel like brain surgery. This can lead to costly mistakes and rework.
  • Spreading the Sickness: Coming to work while contagious can turn a single sick day into a workplace outbreak, impacting team morale and further straining resources.
  • Employee Burnout: Pushing yourself to the limit takes a toll. Presenteeism can lead to burnout, impacting mental and physical health.

Creating a Culture of Well-being:

The good news is, there’s a way out of the presenteeism trap. Get income insurance to relive yourself of the pressure that you have to work. Within income insurance you take significant amount of time off work to recover from your illness and receive money as if you were working.

Remember: A healthy you is a productive you. Don’t let presenteeism become your norm. Prioritise your well-being, and encourage a healthy work culture that values both productivity and employee health.

Looking for Guidance?

We understand the challenges of balancing work and well-being. If you’re struggling don’t hesitate to contact us. Together, we can create an income protection plan for you and a healthier work life.

Source data:

[1] Survey conducted by Opinium for Canada Life among a national representation sample of 2,000 UK adults between 10-14 November 2023. [2] Respondents were able to select more than one option.



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