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Why come into work ill? Individual and organizational factors underlying presenteeism

Alison Collins (Centre for Organizational Health and Wellbeing, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK)
Susan Cartwright (Centre for Organizational Health and Wellbeing, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 22 June 2012

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the perceptions of managers and employees, in one private and one public sector organization, towards an individual's decision to go to work, despite being unwell, a phenomenon known as presenteeism in the literature.

Design/methodology/approach

Qualitative interviews (n=33) were used to investigate the personal beliefs and attitudes of managers and employees towards presenteeism in an attempt to understand why individuals come into work, despite being unwell, rather than taking time off work.

Findings

This paper explores the factors that influence an individual's decision to come into work despite being ill. Employees who are unwell are likely to take into consideration a combination of factors before deciding whether to come into work or take sick leave. The study's findings highlight the importance of both the work environment and an individual's personal motivation, including their work ethic, on presenteeism, providing further evidence that context is important.

Originality/value

The study's findings support previous research that attendance management mechanisms implemented by the organization can lead to absenteeism. However, well‐designed and managed return to work policies can be of reciprocal benefit to both the organization and the employee.

Keywords

Citation

Collins, A. and Cartwright, S. (2012), "Why come into work ill? Individual and organizational factors underlying presenteeism", Employee Relations, Vol. 34 No. 4, pp. 429-442. https://doi.org/10.1108/01425451211236850

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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