Health & Productivity : Work-Time Arrangements and Presenteeism

Time Clock

When an employee wakes up feeling ill, organizational policies may impact the decision to take a day off or show up for work as much as the personality of the worker or the expectations of managers and co-workers.

A recent study of Finnish workers’ absence and presenteeism patterns finds that several working-time arrangements were associated with the likelihood that workers were present on the job when they were ill.

Shift or period work, the availability of regular overtime, and working more than 48 hours per week all increased the likelihood of presenteeism. At the same time, workers with regular overtime were less likely to take sick days; one implication is that overtime rules could result in situations where an ill person who might have stayed home nonetheless gets paid overtime wages for underperforming.

Workers were less prone to presenteeism when their work hours matched their desired hours and when they were allowed three paid sick days before requiring a doctor’s note. It is worth noting that the paid sick day rule did not increase the likelihood of an illness absence – which suggests that the results do not indicate a large number of workers using sick days as an excuse to slack off.

This study’s focus on the structure of the workplace provides an interesting complement to our earlier post describing how absence and presenteeism in a UK firm reflected a distinctive “presenteeism culture.”