Presentism: Many go to work despite illness

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Presentism: Many people go to work sick

Many employees go to work despite illness, even if the doctor advised them to stay at home. The Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) found this out in a study on the subject of presentism.

When employees go to work despite illness, the experts speak of so-called presentism. The Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has devoted itself to the phenomenon in a comprehensive study in which 258 existing research work on the subject of presentism was evaluated as part of a meta-analysis. The BAuA's result shows that working despite illness is no exception - with far-reaching consequences for the health of those affected and the productivity of companies.

According to the BAuA, the topic of presentism has become increasingly important both nationally and internationally in recent years, even if there is still no uniform concept of presentism. For this reason, the authors Mika Steinke and Bernhard Badura have evaluated 285 current research works on the subject of presentism within the framework of the meta study "Presentism: A Review of the State of Research" and the results have now been presented to the public. When evaluating the 258 studies, the BAuA experts were able to identify two priorities of previous research approaches. Mika Steinke and Bernhard Badura report that the North American studies primarily focus their research interest on loss of productivity due to health complaints, while European studies focus more on the causes and influencing factors of employee behavior and health consequences.

Loss of productivity due to presenterism The effects of chronic illnesses on productivity have been studied in the USA for a significantly longer time than in Europe, the authors of the BAuA explained. Accordingly, the quality of the measurement methods should be assessed better. The BAuA therefore calls for Germany to develop and validate instruments for measuring presentism, which should be based on self-assessments by the employed. The BAuA explained that the productivity losses caused by presenteeism can also be recorded much better here in Germany.

Health effects of presentism The effects of presentism on health are more of a concern in European studies. The evaluation has shown that workers who go to work despite illness often rate their own health status as bad or rather bad overall, the BAuA authors explained. Mika Steinke and Bernhard Badura report that several studies have also indicated that presentism increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases in the long term if the health is already rather poor. Two studies have even shown that there is a connection between presenteeism and long-term incapacity. However, positive effects of presentism on health could also be shown, according to the authors. For example, there are signs that presentism has a positive effect on certain chronic musculoskeletal disorders.

Presentism costs higher than the costs of sickness absenteeism Overall, the meta study "Presentism: A Review of the State of Research" clearly demonstrated that sick leave as a tool to record the state of health of employees falls short, emphasized the authors of the BAuA, Mika Steinke and Bernhard Badura. From an economic point of view, the costs of presentations are at least as high as the costs of absenteeism due to illness, the experts explained. If long-term health impairments occur as a result of presentism, not only the economic but also the economic costs can increase massively, the BAuA authors warn. The fact that many employees go sick to work due to the pressure to perform and the threat of job loss despite their doctor's recommendation to the contrary can quickly lead to more disadvantages than if those affected had stayed at home and recovered, the experts concluded. (fp)

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