Presenteeism bad all around - research proves it

A group of Swedish researchers have found that high workloads and other organisational factors have the effect of compelling workers to go to work when they're unwell. This significantly increases their levels of exhaustion and creates a vicious cycle that adversely affects employers.

They studied 3,525 employees of a Swedish university, and found that 38 per cent of workers who experienced eight or more days of presenteeism in the previous year were experiencing "severe" exhaustion. This compared to just seven per cent of those with no days of presenteeism. The researchers define presenteeism as "attending work while ill", and asked participants how often they went to work "despite feeling that you really should have taken sick leave due to your state of health".

Their findings echo previous research showing job demands increase the risk of exhaustion while job control reduces it.  Work-related or organisational factors that trigger presenteeism include high workloads and the need to catch up on work after taking sick leave, they say.

They said: "The pressure to go to work because of job demands may partially explain the propensity to choose presenteeism before absenteeism. This may start a reciprocal relation where presenteeism causes exhaustion and exhaustion reduces work performance, which in turn encourages more presenteeism to compensate for the impaired work ability, which then causes further exhaustion."

But workers are likely to choose to be absent from work when they need to be when there is no immediate pressure to deliver work and their co-workers aren't affected by their absence, the researchers say.

Read more: Emmanuel Aboagye, et al, Exhaustion and Impaired Work Performance in the Workplace Associations with Presenteeism and Absenteeism [Abstract - but PDF of full article can be opened from this page]. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, online first, August 2019, doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000001701. Source OHSAlert. More information on Presenteeism on the site.

New ‘working women at risk’ tool

A new online tool – Working Women at Risk – intends to help researchers and advocates to visualise the exposures to chemicals that might be putting working women in California at risk for breast cancer. Using the tool, which is equally useful wherever you live and work, individuals can search data on over 1,000 chemicals, sorted into 24 chemical groups, by occupation, ethnicity/race, and age. The tool is part of a project exploring working women’s risk of breast cancer and is funded by the California Breast Cancer Research Program at the University of California, and supported by occupational health experts at the Public Health Institute, the California Department of Public Health, and the University of California San Francisco.

It provides useful information for Australian women working in a number of occupations to check what potentially harmful chemicals they may be being exposed to in the course of their jobs. The information can also be very useful for HSRs and union officials.
Read more: Working women and risk tool and background. Source: Risks 913

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