Unproductive but indulgent a dilemma in working


So ingrained has been the work is life motto in the existences of a today spanning out through quite some considerable terrains of time that any step that detracts from this all important of the life pursuits in Godly almost holding, as alluded to by the adage of work also being worship, is interpreted as something essentially negative. Viewed thus in such notions that prefers work to be negated by idleness and not by leisure despite the latter adhering to in technical jargon of the language, this whole exaltation of the working status has led it to be a malady of sorts as well. From being the trigger for a host of physical and psychological health problems to take root as well as in its far reaching impact upon all aspects of life ranging from the personal to the social and everything in between, it is work indeed that has been made to weigh down upon existences in a way seeking to drain the life out of us.

This life sucking conspiracy of the work kind might come across as a metaphor in all the striking premise of it but as literally apparent as well can be this aspect of what too much of a worshipping of working leads one to. Viewed in the context of organizational workplaces occurring across as organised a work structure, there happens to be numerous iterations of this certain very appalling scope of what too much of a priority upon working can and does indeed exploit. Leading thus to the evolving of such terms as outright disapproving as burnout while alluding at other times to the more nuanced concept of presenteeism while dealing as well with of course yet again everything in between has been this immense thrust on professional work that presents itself today as a very distinct unfolding of events availed precisely out of its confines not limited by even a high enough ceiling.

Interestingly enough, in our very specific mention of the two issues of burnout and presenteeism, we have touched down upon a very crucial thread of what regularly tangles upon every overworked premise. In each of these elements of action bearing the potential to entail out of the other as a cause in one moment and a consequence at the next, the interlocking strands of relatability are more than evident. And yet, while burnout makes for more impactful a mention in commanding attention to the need of it abhorring, the understanding of the effects of presenteeism remains more ambiguous by virtue of its very nature in a different kind of duality.

Because even without nothing particularly positive making a case for this concept in consideration, presenteeism still happens to be rather ‘softly’ evocative of what it essentially is. And it is upon such grounds of reasoning that this as pertinent exploration relating to the overworking tendencies of the world manages to manifest itself in practically every aspect of what sums up the physical workplace. And to concerning extents as well, as rounded up by the many assertive researches that has seen presenteeism ironically impeding the very essence of working hard to make it matter.

As a practice, presenteeism does not appear to stem as such from the overbearing aspect in which professional work is often understood. It happens to be more a personal ‘initiative’ on the part of the workers and/ or employees of a work place but one that is more often than not guided indeed by underlying expectations and imposed upon through subtle application of pressure. Very simple in essence is this mode of working that invokes the idea of people continuing to be physically present in their domain of work even when not being able to be fully there in essence.

Present thus in person but not so much as in purpose and therefore negatively affecting- if not defeating outright- the essence of productivity that determines the measure of work done are those employees either committing to this routine show in visibility due to their own excessive devotion to work or driven instead by an obligation to demonstrate the same, even when not so prominently existent, to their office peers and bosses. Availed hence out of a number of reasons each as mutually exclusive or necessarily overlapping as can be is this doctrine of the presenteeism culture that devotes itself to furthering the cause of mandatory office attendance, irrespective of whether or not that translates to working in actual terms of it.

One of course would be no stranger to this practice almost mindlessly adhered to a number of times without much thought into the probable consequences of it. Showing up somewhat ill at work is the norm rather than the exception even when it isn’t the healthiest mode of living for anyone of us. And yet we continue to report at work unwell whether in mind or in body more than often, not considering or not even understanding the far reaching effects it might yield. Interestingly as well its isn’t just the impact of working while neglecting the all important concern of health that manifests itself as a consequence of presenteeism. Equally worthy of mention in all apparent assertion of the always present syndrome would be such aspects of concern that affect also those associated with us. Harbouring therefore the potential of causing personal and social disturbances mostly along the professional line of expression would be this act in ‘omnipresence’ that directly contradicts the more extensively explored pattern of absenteeism even when it is no lesser a matter of poignance than what it occurs as the exact opposite of.

As something universally adhered to more or less, it is not very difficult to assess the reasons as to why one feels inclined to exhibit this trait of the working. The first reason of sorts happens to be not so much of a reason at all, drawing instead from an innate expectation that one has of themselves to serve indeed their organisation to the fullest. Also associated would be the tendency to brush aside seemingly mild concerns of the flu and cold as something rather ‘regular’ so as to not even believe that causes like these can call for an abstaining from work.

Even when it is concerning of greater health issues of the psychological kind whether it be experiences of stress, anxiety, depression and the like, the general mode of action is to still drag oneself to work both out of the stigma surrounding mental health conditions or the perception of having to live with it. Either way though, what one ends up portraying is a favoring of the presenteeism culture in such manner that does not even manifest it as potentially quite troublesome.

presenteeism meaning
Source: Clive Leach

The other common reason that might be dictating the prevalence of the presenteeism practice happens to be one more professionally valid. Specifically for employees working in such positions not yet permanent or for such people summing up the unskilled fraction of the workforce for whom unemployment presents a bigger threat, both in their susceptibility to being more easily replaced as well as in their desperate need of holding on to a means of livelihood, presenteeism seems to be the solution to deal with their fears of being laid off. Job insecurity therefore is a prime reason why so many people feel compelled to turn up to work even when they aren’t in the best of their abilities to render service to full potential.

Interestingly though, even the contrasting almost alternative of job insecurity lends ample scope for presenteeism to continue in certainty. In such workspaces as well as in such occupations where the onus of a particular type of work rests upon a designated few, employees might feel even more necessary to report to work regardless of how their health is faring. Specifically for those engaged in welfare and medical services as well as people holding such positions that entail a greater degree of workload and efficiency, presenteeism is the norm guiding their work ethics. Along this same trail of working, a very definite feature that makes this manifestation of the ever present double up as sense of necessity is the unappealing prospect of having to attend to a greater burden of piled up work all at once at a later period of time.

Another self evident reason why presenteeism manages to rule large the work culture is the very very basis of what it stems from. At the root of all desire or coercion to mandatorily mark one’s physical presence in the area of their working is the more than optimum importance adhered to work. In the tendency to gauge one’s own worth in terms of the work done or rather in terms of the perceived work done, presenteeism is furthered by those of us who allude to this theory of deriving self esteem. Not to mention folks who identify as workaholics and for whom it is work and work only that sums up their purpose in life, the idea of having to be present every waking moment of their lives in the office is what further validates the whole presenteeism narrative.

The causes for presenteeism can be even numerous, drawing even upon individual and personal ideas of what work means to each one of us- and even more importantly how much it means to render it indispensable an aspect of our life and living. No less myriad are the consequences that this practice leads to, even for not so devoted pursuers of it. Indeed of primary and largely personal awareness is such effect that speaks as impaired productivity. Someone who isn’t in the best of their health or in their spirits can never lend themselves fully to something as exerting as work. Thus even in their exclusive attendance in person at their office, folks who happen to be suffering from some illness even of the seemingly most inconsequential kind experience an inability to concentrate entirely on their work. This in fact can further worsen the already out of sorts existence and impair productivity so much and to such extents that they often end up feeling even more miserable both in their condition of health and state of mind.

what is presenteeism
Source: Phys.org

The decreased productivity of one can even unconsciously trigger a general unproductive run in the workplace. With emotions and state of existence happening to be contagious, it is no surprise that one demotivated employee, even when they owe that lack of stamina to some temporary characterisation of ill health, can and does indeed affect the overall working mood. And thus presenteeism ends up costing companies and organisations more in terms of less than optimal deliverance of output than what they had expected to avail at the cost of a not so fit employee.

The unspoken presenteeism mandate also weighs down on the health of those having to work by this ‘ideal’ of their office. In neglecting their immediate health concerns and in fact pressurising themselves to drag through even when they cannot really make it happen lead to greater levels of exhaustion and a greater possibility of recurring health issues. Drained of all vitality and overwhelmed by having to fulfil the unrealistic expectations of an organisation that clearly has no concern for the health of their employees, the more frequent presentees of the workspace find themselves more vulnerable to the ultimate pressing issue of occupational burnout.

Presenteeism also harbours the unwelcome potential of triggering workplace epidemics by virtue of its enormous belief in physical presence even of a diseased workforce. When an employee suffering from some rather contagious illness finds it binding to attend office, they also inevitably expose others around them to the risk of catching that virulent strain of infection. Thus carrying the threat of the entire office to turn up as a workforce not being able to perform to potential as well as an even graver situation of being completely unproductive altogether are the practitioners and preachers of the presenteeism phenomenon that somehow does not present itself as quite the problem that it really is.