Enabling Access Blog


The Presenteeism Virus & a New Workplace Vaccine

Just as an antagonizing strain of virus infects a population and a new vaccine is created to fight it off, symptoms of Presenteeism sneak up on a workplace long before Absenteeism does, and the treatment is all in the prevention.


“Presenteeism is the action of employees coming to work despite having a sickness that justifies an absence and as a consequence, they are performing their work under sub-optimal conditions.”[1]


Some may ask why these employees don’t take time off, and from what surveys have uncovered, it has more to do with the pressures they feel to stay at work and the workload that will be waiting for them when then return. Many workplaces make the error of measuring absenteeism and sickness rates and figure if those numbers are low and productivity is good then their employees are generally healthily.


The unfortunate truth is that many employees, who are undergoing stressful events in their life (either at home or at work) are pushing through life with a mental health affliction that is not being treated, gets worse, and can lead to long term disability claims.


Presenteeism possible causes:

  • High production expectations
  • Role Conflict
  • Relationship issues with co-workers/supervisors
  • Reduced decision authority
  • Fear of job security


Possible costs to the Workplace:

  • Reduced production
  • Reduced Morale
  • Toxic Workplace Culture
  • Us Versus Them
  • Absenteeism
  • STD/LTD claims


The vaccine is not a single dose and instead takes multiple doses in the form of Mental Health Check-Ins. A workplace should examine the health of its employees on a continuous base, instead of asking for a doctor’s note once the employee reports an illness. Having human resource policies in place that support employees and provide regular health assessments that include mental health screenings can be the early intervention the employee needs to get back on track.


Learning about workplace conflicts before they erupt, can be very helpful in diffusing situations and keeping employees happy and healthy. Having a Conflict Resolution Specialist, Counsellor or Occupational Therapist at close hand could be a powerful vaccine. Creating a workplace culture of acceptance, trust and respect may be difficult to build, but one based on mistrust, unfair workloads and pressures to attend, can easily fall.


[1] C. Biron et al., “At work but ill: psychosocial work environment and well-being determinants of presenteeism propensity,” Journal of Public Mental Health, 5 (2006) 26  



Marnie Courage, OT Reg. (MB)

Owner /Managing Director

Enabling Access Inc.




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