I read a study a while back that said “presenteeism” is a much bigger problem in the US than absenteeism. And I don’t think any of us need a study to know that’s true!
Last week I talked about the effect of presenteeism on our projects when WE show up even though we’re sick or burned out. Our minds don’t work as fast. We can’t process all the information coming in and start to make poor decisions.
Taking a break would benefit our team and project as much as ourselves.
But we’re not the only ones who show up and stay there when they should rest.
Your team does it, too.
They may not be “running the show” but they also have deadlines, more work than reasonable, and several work streams going on at the same time.
Instead of calling in sick, they show up because they don’t want to disappoint their teammates (or you). They have a a mountain of work and don’t want to do it on the weekend. Or they’re just about done with an activity and don’t want to lose momentum.
Every project has periods of intense work and long hours. But it shouldn’t be the norm.
When someone is sick and physically in the office, it has the added risk of passing the germs around. These days we’re all hyper-aware of illness so it’s an easier task to convince our team members to stay home.
But as I write this, most corporate employees are still working remote.
So when someone is not feeling their best…they can still turn on their computer and log on!
They still show up for meetings, still try to hit their deadlines and attempt to be productive.
When we have 24 hour access, it’s hard to separate work from home. Boundaries blur. It’s incredibly tempting to “hop on for just a little while” and end up being on-line for hours.
Presenteeism in our teams can cause mistakes that filter through each department so everyone is affected. Or a small issue with data isn’t caught until a month later when it’s a mess to untangle and fix.
And just like when we’re not 100%, it’s tough for them to process information, they become less tolerant of everyday issues, and it takes longer to recover.
So, while we need to make sure we’re not over-working ourselves, we also pay attention to our teams.
Here are a few watch-points:
- How many hours are they putting in on a daily basis?
- What times are they sending email?
- Is there a change in their demeanor – are they less patient or tolerant?
- Are they mentioning something new in their environment (i.e. kids home or caring for an elderly parent)
- Do they look/sound different?
- How are they acting in meetings – or is there a change in their show up rate or time?
This is not an exhaustive list. But any of these can indicate some presenteeism is going on. Then we need to take the next step and speak with the team member.
But be prepared for denial and pushback. It’s hard to stop the work-train once it gets going.
Presenteeism is cultural within the organization and the team.
Project Managers have a big influence on our project’s culture. We set the tone from the very first meeting and our teams will watch what we do throughout the project.
They will notice when we’re asking them to hit impossible deadlines or encouraging late night work. They will note when we come to work sick or skip vacation.
How we set the standards and stick to them over time is critical.
We all want to be present with a positive attitude, energy, and a clear mind. Making sure our team is not over-working or showing up sick goes a long way to maintaining a project that is not just efficient, but more enjoyable for everyone.
And the project outcomes will reflect it!
By the way, if you missed last week’s article, here’s the link: Presenteeism Part 1