Presenteeism is a phenomenon that has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years due to it numerous detrimental effects. A Belgian study sought to examine the relationship between various job content and psychosocial work factors and presenteeism. Both psychosocial work factors and job content related factors were found to be significantly related to presenteeism. The results found that high effort, high job demands, low rewards, and low support were all linked to presenteeism. Additionally, a significant relationship was found between presenteeism and both bullying and work-to-home conflict.
Key Topics: Job stress; Presenteeism; Psychosocial risk factors; Bullying; Work-family conflict; Reward
Title of Reviewed Article: Association Between Psychosocial Characteristics Of Work And Presenteeism: A Cross-Sectional Study
Researchers: Heidi Janssens, Els Clays, Bart De Clercq, Dirk De Bacquer, and Lutgart Braeckman (Ghent University); Annalisa Casini and France Kittel (Free University of Brussels).
Publication: International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health, 2016, Vol. 29 No. 2, pp. 331–344.
Setting the Scene
Presenteeism can refer to situations where employees come to work despite feeling so sick that they perceive that sick leave would have been appropriate (McKevitt et al., 1997). Another definition focuses on the loss of productivity at work due to specific employee behaviors (Johns, 2010). This study focuses primarily on implications to the former type of presenteeism.
When taking both definitions into account, presenteeism is something that can be considered as relatively widespread in the workplace and presenteeism has been shown to be detrimental to the health of employees (McEwen, 2004; Westerlund et al., 2009). Additionally, researchers have found that sickness presenteeism can be a risk factor in future absenteeism (Bergström et al., 2009; Janssens et al. 2013).
As presenteeism generally involves employees not being able or willing to work to full capacity, there is an obvious economic impact through a productivity loss for the company, and research suggests that the cost of presenteeism could outweigh those of sickness absence (e.g. Goetzel et al., 2004).
Aside from the health of an employee, which has been clearly shown to be a factor in presenteeism (Aronsson, Gustafsson, & Dallner, 2000), research has also begun to look at the role of work content and psychosocial associated factors in presenteeism. Research has shown job content factors such as job insecurity (Heponiemi et al., 2010) and job demands (Kivimäki et al., 2005) to be related to presenteeism. Psychosocial work factors and their relationship to absenteeism has received more limited attention. For example, while workplace bullying has been shown to be a risk factor in sickness absence and various health issues (Niedhammer, David, & Degioanni, 2006), the relationship with absenteeism has not been clearly established. Similarly, work-family conflict has been linked to increased sickness absence (Clays et al., 2009), but the possible link to absenteeism is less established.
Through this study, the researchers look to investigate a range of factors which may relate to presenteeism, including the more established factors such as job demands, but also less established factors such as reward, bullying, and work-to-home conflict.
How the research was conducted
This study was conducted using a sample of 2983 Belgian middle-aged workers, who were employed across 7 companies from the public, services, and manufacturing sectors.
Data was collected via a self-administered questionnaire which including measures for individual and socio-demographic factors, health behaviors and characteristics of the psychosocial work environment. The following factors were assessed: presenteeism, rewards, social support, efforts, job demands, job control, home-to-work conflict, bullying, and work-to-home conflict.
An additional analysis was conducted for a subgroup of workers who had low neuroticism and good self-rated health.
Key Research Findings
The results found that 50% of employees reported coming to work despite being sick 2-5 times or greater in the past year.
Women reported greater sickness presenteeism, lower control, greater job demands, and greater work-family conflict. Men on the other hand reported greater levels of bullying.
The results found that there was a relationship between presenteeism and all of the psychosocial factors examined, with the exception of job control. Therefore, a relationship was found with social support, efforts, job demands, home-to-work conflict, bullying, and work-to-home conflict.
Low rewards were found to be significantly related to presenteeism.
For the good health and low neuroticism subgroup, less presenteeism was reported as well as less issues with psychosocial risk factors.
The results indicate that both psychosocial and work content factors are related to presenteeism, suggesting that presenteeism is not purely driven by employee health factors but rather a multidimensional phenomenon.
Lower rewards were found to increase presenteeism. Rewards in this context related to monetary rewards, job security, esteem, and career opportunities. This is consistent with prior research which suggested that an employee’s financial situation will likely effect their decision to come to work when sick or not. Therefore, as this study suggests, low rewards may lead to an employee choosing to engage in presenteeism when ill.
Consistent with prior research (e.g. Kivimäki et al., 2005), this study shows that high job demands and efforts relate to presenteeism, suggesting that as a short term measure employees will work whilst sick in order to maintain productivity levels.
This study is one of the first to examine the relationship between bullying and presenteeism, and the finding that there is a relationship between these two factors suggests, according to the researchers, that employees who feel bullied may fear recriminations if they choose to be absent from work when sick and therefore might opt for presenteeism. It could also be possible that bullying may worsen health and therefore lead to higher possible instances of presenteeism.
Finally, the relationship between absenteeism and work-home conflict, established in this study, is a relatively new one, although it is broadly consistent with prior research (Clays et al, 2009), and the results suggest that employees experiencing work activities which interfere with home responsibilities, will choose presenteeism when sick.
Organizational and Reward Implications
What this study establishes is the importance of various factors, in addition to employee health, in the prevalence of presenteeism. Given that this phenomenon can impact both the individual and the company in a negative way it is important that companies try to address it. As presenteeism has been shown to be a multidimensional concept with various factors effecting it, companies should endeavor to understand these different elements and whether there are areas which they can improve on which would likely lead indirectly to decreased presenteeism. Such actions could include addressing low rewards, increasing social support, and addressing bullying in the workplace.
This study adds to our understanding of absenteeism and in particular builds on the relationship between presenteeism and job and psychosocial work factors. Further research could benefit from reviewing these relationships across a longer timeframe and examining employees’ sickness absence and presenteeism figures together to establish a fuller picture.
Source Article: Janssens, H., Clays, E., Clercq, B. D., Bacquer, D. D., Casini, A., Kittel, F., & Braeckman, L. (2016). Association between psychosocial characteristics of work and presenteeism: A cross-sectional study. International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health. 29(2), 331–344.
Published by: Nofer Institute of Occupational Medicine
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