October 5, 2022

Absenteeism vs. Presenteeism

Absenteeism vs. Presenteeism

Find out the difference between absenteeism and presenteeism and how they both have a negative impact on the workplace.

Migraine is the third most common disease in the world, impacting 1 in 10 employees. People living with migraine often experience difficulties in the workplace and its impact can be detrimental. When left untreated, migraine can force employees to call off work or not be as productive as they’d like—putting strain on the employee and their coworkers. 

Both absenteeism and presenteeism have a negative effect on workplace morale and productivity. Understanding absenteeism and presenteeism can help employees and employers use common language to work toward solutions for managing migraine in the workplace. Read more to learn about the differences between absenteeism and presenteeism and how much of an impact they make. 

Absenteeism vs. Presenteeism

Employers lose billions each year due to migraine—$50 billion in the U.S. and €88.3 billion in the EU, in fact. Most (89%) of these losses is due to presenteeism.

Absenteeism is defined as absence from work. When an employee calls in sick and cannot work that day, that is absenteeism. Presenteeism is when an employee is present at work but not as productive as they could be due to their disease. Absenteeism and presenteeism are different, but they both negatively impact productivity But what exactly are the differences? Check out the following examples below.

Absenteeism Presenteeism
Scenario 1:  Mariela woke up with a migraine attack and had to call in sick for the day. The attack lasts longer than expected, and she takes paid time off for half the week. This affects her work, as she is unable to meet her quota. At her end-of-the-year review, her supervisor put her on a performance improvement plan because she missed her quota and exceeded her paid time off.  Sameer is at work and experiences a migraine attack. He spends most of the day just trying to push through. He can carry out some tasks but is not as productive as usual and falls behind on some deadlines. He also misses several meetings and doesn’t hear important details for some upcoming projects.
Scenario 2:  While at work, Chris experiences symptoms that typically warn a migraine attack is imminent. He leaves in the middle of the day to go home and prepare for a migraine attack. Though his head pain passes, he wakes up the next morning with severe nausea and fatigue. He is forced to use one of his sick days to take the day off from work and has to reschedule an important meeting with a client. Ruba came into work with a migraine attack and is experiencing neck pain, fatigue and increased sensitivity to light and sound. As the day went on, her productivity at work progressively decreased. During a meeting, she was unable to articulate her ideas clearly to her team and could not focus on what her coworkers were saying.

Absenteeism and presenteeism negatively affect the workplace, productivity and employee performance. Establishing a migraine-friendly workplace helps support employees, and organizations will experience fewer productivity losses.

How to Mitigate Absenteeism and Presenteeism

Migraine is called an “invisible” disease because its symptoms are not obvious or easily seen. There are also several myths and misconceptions about the illness. Many employees with migraine hesitate to share their conditions with their employers because they feel misunderstood. It is important to listen to and believe employees about their needs and conditions. Keeping an open mind will let employees know that they are being heard.

According to a 2021 survey conducted by the Migraine Association of Ireland, 85% of participants expressed that they would like their colleagues to be more understanding of migraine. They’d feel more supported at work if their team and employers realize that migraine is not just a headache.

74% of participants also stated that their employers did not offer accommodations or support for their migraine. Workplace accommodations can positively impact an employee’s performance and productivity by making the employee feel supported. For example, if an employee’s migraine is often triggered by loud noises, their desk or workspace can be moved to a quieter area of the office. Work-from-home options and/or flexible hours are also favorable as they allow employees with migraine to manage their symptoms and attacks better. 

According to the Harvard Business Review, migraine education programs—such as the Migraine Fitness At Work™—have increased productivity by 29% to 36%. These programs are designed to teach workplaces the basics of migraine, how it affects patients and more. 

Educating others is the key to creating a more understanding and supportive workplace. It is also a great opportunity to break misconceptions about migraine. Employees will be able to learn what migraine really is—a debilitating illness that can disrupt someone’s daily life.

Absenteeism and presenteeism affect employees and companies in negative ways. But by understanding what they are, employers and employees can openly discuss migraine to find solutions that benefit everyone. Education programs are the first step to creating a more inclusive work environment. By offering more support, organizations will not only help their employees feel supported, but it will also reduce losses. 

If you’re interested in bringing the IHS-GPAC Workplace Initiative to your workplace, learn more and find valuable tools to help you make a difference on the IHS-GPAC website.

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