It isn’t so long ago that absenteeism was the scourge of the workplace. Colleagues taking duvet days, or time off sick. We were all over looking at it and managing the reasons why.
Recently I am noticing the rise of something else, in fact the complete opposite. Presenteeism. The martyrs that come to the office day in day out with their ailments. I don’t mean minor illnesses as such; we all work through them. These are the ones who come in, WHATEVER is wrong with them.
Barely able to speak or breath with a heavy cold, cough, sore throat. They still come in and take up station at their desks, like some loyal trooper. Breathing, coughing and spluttering their germs into the air con/air recirculation. Infecting a lot of the office.
What confuses me more about this is the fact that (most) organisations now offer a whole range of flexible options to workers. From the basics of working at home and being able to access emails, sharepoint and networks from home on your own devices, through to duvet days, flexible holidays and sick days.
Personally if I am not feeling great and I don’t need to be in the office (these days I can skype or teams into most meetings) then I tend to stay at home. Dual benefit here, I don’t have to drag myself into the office, endure a commute and try and make it through the day, realistically my focus is on making it through to home time, my productivity is low. The company benefit is that I am not in the office infecting all around me.
In some cultures where sick days are frowned upon then I fully understand why people may not wish to have sick time. The fear that this will count against them in some way. But we should also be working to change those cultures. Fear and working when ill is not a good way of getting the best out of your staff.
This links to another thought I have had for a while. There is a strange phenomenon that I have never been able to understand. That is the thought that if someone is sat physically in an office space/building that is owned/leased by the company then they are productive because they are there.
I understand with some colleagues there is a lack of trust, and that needs to be worked at, that trust gained. But for the most part this is not the case. A certain kind of person gains assurance from people being present. The feeling this somehow guarantees productivity.
My days when I work at home are far more productive. Even the ones where I do the washing, maybe a little shopping, a walk on the beach, or go out for coffee. The reason why? I still wake at the same time, I am ready to go at the same time, but my commute is about 20 ft from the couch to the desk. So all the time I would spend walking to work, getting changed, setting up for the day (as well as making tea, getting stopped and pulled into conversation etc) is not used and instead I am working from the moment I am ready.
So if you are a manager or employer I guess I have a couple of questions and a challenge for you:
- do you really think that your staff/colleagues are more productive when they come in the office ill?
- do you believe that someone being present in a workspace is more productive than someone who is choosing to use their time in a different way while working from home?
My challenge – can you work with your staff over a period of time to change that view and see if it works for you?