Price of Presenteeism

Absenteeism costs the company. You don’t turn up at work – you deprive your company of a few bucks that day.

Did you also know that you can also cause loss to the company by being present?

I am not talking about the managers, executives and no-gooders who are part of any office. I am talking about people who being present may cause more harm than good. The cost of presenteesim is the cost incurred due to forceful attendance of a person who was better left staying away from work.

io9 recently published an article about the cost of presenteeism.

It is interesting to see the cases where a employee is better kept away from work, rather than the other way around.

The outcome recommendation of all this is on expected lines –

  • Be accommodative of human needs, wants and inefficiencies
  • Enable people to work remotely
  • Encourage people to not kill themselves working

Looks all good on paper, but seldom followed by companies.

Why –

  • Organization’s self interest is powerful
  • Managers care more about short term needs more
  • With the best of intent, there are only a few people available to do a given task and the task needs to be done

There are quite a number of professions out there that demand the person to be physically present for work. All those physical jobs that need a no other option but to get the human to the work place. They can of course be kind to that human and respect the need to take off from time to time.

And then, there are jobs that do need your virtual presence. IT is a good example, and I am a live example of what can happen within that environment.

work from home

These kind of remote jobs are despised by anyone and everyone wanting to get some serious work done. No, not be the people doing it, but by the people getting the job done.

There are lot of arguments out there to promote remote working. But, at the end of the day, I have seen face-to-face communications do accelerate the work. This is true especially when there is a need to closely collaborate to resolve the inter-dependencies.

Things easily fall out of control even in this age when Hangouts are common, screen-sharing, and talking to each other is enabled at the click of a button.

But, things do change a bit when the work just involves contribution from a number of individual contributors. It does not really matter where the work gets done from, as long as there are systems to track everything and stitch them together to form the end product.

A good example of either case –

  1. IBM Global Services in India enables work from home, subject to project needs
    Although this is a boon for repetitive work, and for the individual contributors (e.g. architects working on the latest solution), it is not entirely pleasant when you are the project manager of a 30 member development team that works from home.
  2. JetBlue allows its call center employees in-charge for reservations work from home
    Making reservations, and handling inquiries is a repetitive job that can be carried out over and over again. Why would you need someone to be at office, when they can be spending for their own telephone, seat, computer and power?

Whether the company allows remote working, or otherwise, one of the humane things they could do is to allow enough leeway for a person to take time off for whatever the reasons.

What is your take?

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