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Present but sick: a three‐wave study on job demands, presenteeism and burnout

Evangelia Demerouti (Department of Social and Organizational Psychology, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands)
Pascale M. Le Blanc (Department of Social and Organizational Psychology, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands)
Arnold B. Bakker (Department of Work and Organizational Psychology, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands)
Wilmar B. Schaufeli (Department of Social and Organizational Psychology, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands)
Joop Hox (Department of Methods and Statistics, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 20 February 2009

Abstract

Purpose

The opposite of absenteeism, presenteeism, is the phenomenon of employees staying at work when they should be off sick. Presenteeism is an important problem for organizations, because employees who turn up for work, when sick, cause a reduction in productivity levels. The central aim of the present study is to examine the longitudinal relationships between job demands, burnout (exhaustion and depersonalization), and presenteeism. We hypothesized that job demands and exhaustion (but not depersonalization) would lead to presenteeism, and that presenteeism would lead to both exhaustion and depersonalization over time.

Design/methodology/approach

The hypotheses were tested in a sample of 258 staff nurses who filled out questionnaires at three measurement points with 1.5 years in‐between the waves.

Findings

Results were generally in line with predictions. Job demands caused more presenteeism, while depersonalization was an outcome of presenteeism over time. Exhaustion and presenteeism were found to be reciprocal, suggesting that when employees experience exhaustion, they mobilize compensation strategies, which ultimately increases their exhaustion.

Research limitations/implications

These findings suggest that presenteeism can be seen as a risk‐taking organizational behavior and shows substantial longitudinal relationships with job demands and burnout.

Practical implications

The study suggests that presenteeism should be prevented at the workplace.

Originality/value

The expected contribution of the manuscript is not only to put presenteeism on the research agenda but also to make both organizations and scientists attend to its detrimental effects on employees' wellbeing and (consequently) on the organization.

Keywords

Citation

Demerouti, E., Le Blanc, P.M., Bakker, A.B., Schaufeli, W.B. and Hox, J. (2009), "Present but sick: a three‐wave study on job demands, presenteeism and burnout", Career Development International, Vol. 14 No. 1, pp. 50-68. https://doi.org/10.1108/13620430910933574

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited