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High job demands, stress and job insecurity are among the main reasons why people go to work when they are ill, according to new research by University of East Anglia (UEA) in the UK.
The study aimed to improve understanding of the key causes of employees going to work ill (also known as presenteeism) and to help managers understand how they can improve employees’ health and productivity.
Lead author of the research Dr Mariella Miraglia, a lecturer in organisational behaviour at UEA’s Norwich Business School found that presenteeism not only stems from ill health and stress, but from raised motivation.
For example, high job satisfaction and a strong sense of commitment to the organisation may motivate people to ‘go the extra-mile’, causing them to work more intensively, even when sick.
Interestingly, presenteeism was also linked to how tightly organisations regulate absence at work, such as strict trigger points for disciplinary action, job insecurity, limited paid sick leave, or few absence days allowed without a medical certificate.
“Organisations may want to carefully review attendance policies for features which could decrease absence at the cost of increased presenteeism,” said Dr Miraglia in a press release.
Workplace wellness and health programmes may be desirable to reduce stress and work-related illness.
Dr. Miraglia pointed out although increasing job resources, such as job control and colleague, supervisor, and organisational support, can be helpful in tackling presenteeism, controlling job demands represents a key line of defence against the behaviour.
“Organisations may benefit from well-designed jobs that limit the level of demands to which employees are exposed to every day, for example by reducing excessive workload, time pressure and overtime work, as well as making sure they have the resources they need.” she said.
The research analysed data from 61 previous studies involving more than 175,960 participants, including the European Working Conditions Survey which sampled employees from 34 countries.