Clock In, Check Out

John Whitaker Audacious Ideas, Driving Productivity, Employee Coaching, Employee Communications, Employee Engagement, John Whitaker

Presenteeism costing employers 11 weeks per worker.”

That’s the article heading that leapt off the page when I received my HR Daily update. (“Presenteeism…” you know it’s a relatively new concept when it gets spell-checked in WordPress.) Not absenteeism, mind you. We can all count the days when employees don’t show.

Presenteeism is way more prevalent than absenteeism—how much more?

“On average, employees in our sample group took about four sick days off each year but when they reported on how many days they lost while on the job, that number shot up to a staggering 57.5 days per year per employee.”

That’s a quote from Dr. Olivia Sackett, a data scientist with the Global Corporate Challenge (GCC). Who are they, you ask? The GCC is a company founded almost 12 years ago (Aussies, gotta love ’em) with a mission of fixing the health and well-being of employees who are “checked out” at the office.

Caring for employees. Sounds easy enough, but the numbers say otherwise. 57.5 days per employee, per year? That’s a fifth of workdays available, and it’s happening right in front of our eyes. How did we get here?

  • “Work” time and personal time are inseparable. Whether spoken or implied, the expectation is that we take work with us wherever we go—started with a pager on my belt 20 years ago, and now I’ve got 3 different devices dinging when an email arrives. Consequently, our personal lives are intertwined with our professional lives. The separation of home and the office is an outdated concept, but much like the “9-to-5” shift mentality, many companies still manage without an appreciation for life outside of the office.
  • We’re afraid to get personal. You see Linda acting very differently lately; you could swear she’s been crying, but I can tell you most men are terrified to approach something that may lead to a sensitive conversation. What if it’s “lady stuff?” (That’s for my wife, who, sadly, has me and two sons to relate to.) No way, man, I’m not going there.
  • Counter-productive behavior is seen as a performance issue. Distracted, forgetful, late to work, missing deadlines—all are examples of behavior manifesting into decreased productivity of an employee, so we want to “manage” the performance. Unfortunately, if the real issue is a personal issue, “managing” their performance can quickly worsen the situation.
  • We’re too busy to care. Seriously, who has time to be a counselor in addition to our other duties? We’re all multi-tasking; we’re trying to remain involved with our families; we’re juggling chainsaws every day and now I have to conduct therapy sessions?

Yeah, kinda… and that’s the rub. We’re not wired (or qualified) to serve in that capacity. And neither is our employer. “Wellness” initiatives and EAP’s are great, I guess, but what are YOU doing for Linda?

I think it’s reasonable to expect that we all do one very simple thing: ask. We already know how collectively terrible we are at conducting performance reviews or holding regular 1:1s. Add to that some natural trepidation approaching someone about a personal situation and pretty soon you have a person suffering in silence.

Good managers have the planned conversations—great managers address the things they see when they see them. That includes the conversations that don’t always feel safe. You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to ask.