Are you ever going home? (What is Presenteeism?)

20 years ago I think we would have been stunned to find ourselves challenged by the idea of staff that never go home. However here we are nearing the end of the second decade of the 21st century with a new challenge – staff that either won’t go home or drag themselves into the office regardless of their health – mental and emotional as well as physical.

What is Presenteeism?

Yet here we are. Presenteeism. Cary Cooper, Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at Manchester University’s UMIST is credited with defining the term; “When even the leading-edge industries like telecoms and IT are downsizing, you want to show commitment by getting in earlier, staying later and sending emails at night”, says Professor Cooper. “Fewer people means more work, which means more stress; and that has a knock-on effect on your private life. It’s a downward spiral.”

In Britain, we work the longest hours in Europe and the second longest, after America, in the developed world. It’s making us ill. According to research carried out by University College London, those who work more than 55 hours a week have a 33% increased risk of stroke compared with those who work a 35- to 40-hour week. They also have a 13% increased risk of coronary heart disease.

And it is not just about staying in the office, regardless we increasingly stay connected, working on reports in the evening, late-night emails and text messages. Sound familiar.

Even when we are ill, it continues, ACAS reports that the scale of Sickness-presence is increasing – suggesting that this has a greater impact on motivation and productivity than actual absence. It recognises the pressures arising from personal money troubles, work-related stress and perceived pressure from managers, as well as perceptions of ongoing economic downturn with staff worrying more about possible downsizing and job losses.

Not only are we at work “so long” but increasingly at work means inactive – with so much work now desk based.


At Passe-Partout Consulting and Equilibrium for life we are strong believers in individual wellbeing and so we recognise this damaging trend and are committed to supporting people through this.

Our Personal Best and Mindfulness in the Workplace programmes both develop a strong sense of individual awareness, challenging people to acknowledge not just the where and what around what they are doing but why. We invite those we work with to acknowledge their strengths, skills and needs. We recognise that fulfilment goes beyond pay and individual performance is much more than a workplace concept.

We work with individuals as whole beings, recognising physical, mental and emotional needs, understanding that a truly engaged employee is a balanced and fulfilled individual, who has time to balance the corporate demand, with the family and need and the personal aspiration.

We encourage people to recognise themselves. And this challenges presenteeism. When individuals are truly self-aware they can recognise requirements, realise boundaries, prioritise and balance motivations.

Sometimes we all have to work long hours, but does it need to be a habit. As employer’s we often look to benefit from Employee good-will, that willingness to go the extra half mile, but how often do we recognise that it has been given and/or challenge whether it is in the individual’s interest – particularly when it persists.

For us wellbeing in the work place is dynamic balance of key factors which we need to acknowledged and nurtured:

             Being fully present: being able to rest in the moment without being overburdened with thoughts or concerns about the past or future, ruminations or anxieties.

             Achieving your best: recognizing yourself on a good day, how are you when you are at your best. How can you develop these experiences?

             Being well connected: developing and maintaining strong and positive relationships with others, be it on a family, friendly or on a professional basis

             Feeling your best: maintaining a healthy balance in your life: eating well, keeping the work-life relationship in check, getting outdoors and being active.

             Personal fulfilment: remembering to find time for yourself, understanding what you need and finding time to offer yourself that reward.


Our programmes develop individual self-efficacy. And that self-efficacy empowers them by recognising their value, championing their strengths, building resilience, supporting achievement and encouraging the appropriate balance.

Self-efficacy provides the strength and resilience needed to challenge the presenteeism trap that we all fall so easily.

It’s time to send your staff on a course that builds them. It’s time to start thinking about sending your staff home.

Contact us to find out how Passe-Partout can help:


Alexandra Taskin