The Presenteeism Conundrum

Updated: Mar 10, 2019


One of the main barriers to creating a usable and used flexible working policy is an entrenched corporate view that presenteeism is an important tool to evaluate performance. In reality there is only limited evidence that this is true and if we are looking to create a new generation of global managers who are able to grow global teams presenteeism becomes less and less important while being able to fairly evaluate productivity is becoming increasingly important.


In a traditional workplace you arrive at the office around 9 am and leave around 5.30 pm, or in the case of the corporate world you don’t leave until the boss leaves or the work is done. That form of clocking in and out is still really valuable in many industries, for example in our healthcare provision when you need to make sure that people are physically present to help people. In reality few of us have jobs that require that level of presenteeism , especially if you work for a global company with stakeholders all over the globe. The new corporate watchword is ‘productivity’ and while this may be the go to word in management right now in reality there is still a large focus on presenteeism over productivity, in particular in those sectors more dominated by an older generation. We need to focus on supporting those managers to become better, more modern mangers and celebrating other managers who are 'walking the walk'.


In order to support a move away from presenteeism a review of Performance Management is needed. This should focus on increasing the number of quantifiable elements in colleague objective setting. This allows for increased focus on the final product and not the process and allows people to work in the way that best increases their productivity, which is the thing they are being evaluated on. Qualitative objectives can still be important but should not be the main focus of colleague objective setting. By setting clear quantifiable objectives you are also better able to monitor where your colleagues need more support and if their current way of working works for both them and the company. This allows for more grown up conversations around locational and time flexibility as it is based on a productivity valuation and reduces any presentism bias.


All opinions are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.

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