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Presenteeism In The Workplace – Working Hard or Hardly Working?

Editorial Team
Last Updated: 12-08-2021 11:57 AM


Work Ethic and Management Practices At The Core Of Business Growth

What are the top seven (7) time wasters at work?1.       Engaging in “chit-chatter” with colleagues
2.       Employees running their own business on company time
3.       Idling on the internet
4.       Running personal errands on and off company premises
5.       Making and receiving personal phone calls
6.       Applying for other jobs
7.       Arriving late or leaving early
As industry struggles to emerge from the decade long recession there is need to begin to re-think the fundamentals that will drive economic growth going forward. At company level we continue to observe that managers are implementing ambitious strategies aimed at increasing capacity utilization and productivity. The results so far have been mixed with some companies experiencing a marked turnaround to profitability whilst others continue spiraling down through loss making. As a human resources consultancy we have continued to emphasize that these initiatives that companies are putting in place are necessary but that managers should also take this opportunity to address and rectify other salient features such as staff engagement, work ethic and organizational culture which we believe are the deciding factors going forward.
Previous research[1] has quantified the impact of low staff engagement and poor work ethic on company viability and profitability. We believe that many managers are struggling to resuscitate their companies not because of the “outdated machinery” and an “illiquid economy” but rather because of the type of employees they have and the general work ethic at their companies. Zimbabwe has been known to have the highest literacy rates in Africa[2] but we believe the potential tangible benefits of this remain to be fully realized and exploited.
Going forward our argument is that people and management practices in the work place will need to be constantly monitored, reviewed and benchmarked to best practice. For instance, as our people continue to adopt technology our approaches and challenges with employee productivity will continue to change. This research dubbed, Presenteeism In The Work Place – Working Hard or Hardly Working, tried to determine and measure seemingly “routine” workplace habits and how these may be affecting our employees ability to be productive.
This research report highlights possible activities through which employers may be losing employee productivity. Many of the activities we will highlight are routine activities often taken for granted by many companies – for example as employees run their own income generating activities on company time. We will demonstrate and argue that companies are losing significant labour productivity through habitual inefficient activities (in some cases) and a clearly intolerable work ethic (in others). In conclusion we will argue that unless and until management reigns in some of these practices it will be very difficult for companies to increase employee productivity.
Our objective in undertaking this research is not to encourage managers to micro-manage. Rather we seek to highlight possible areas companies may be losing productivity and proffer recommendations on how improved management practices and role modeling can contribute to increased productivity and profitability of companies. This report contributes to Industrial Psychology Consultants goal to help business leaders understand the forces transforming the local and global economy, improve company performance, and work for better national policies. The report is in-line with our mission of maximizing returns on human capital. As with all Industrial Psychology Consultants research, this work is independent and has neither been commissioned nor sponsored in any way by any business, government, or other institution.

Profile Of The Participants and Methodology

264 Zimbabwean employees participated in this survey. All responses were collected on-line using via SurveyMonkey using a survey instrument with 16 questions. Participants were asked whether or not they were employed locally at the time of completing the survey. Those that responded negatively to this question were removed as the survey explicitly targeted people working in Zimbabwe. The average age of the participants is 36 years and the average years of working experience is 13 years. 61.6% of the respondents are males and 38.4% are females. 17.8% are non-managerial employees, 20.7% are junior management, 33.9% are in middle management, and 25.7% are senior managers and executives. Participants were drawn from 18 economic sectors with most respondents being in the Financial Services (18.7%), Manufacturing (12.0%), Non-Governmental Organisations (11.6%), IT and Telecommunications (9.5%) and Mining (6.6%). 41.6% of the respondents have a Postgraduate degree as their highest academic qualification, 39.1% have an Undergraduate degree, 16.3% have a Diploma and 3.1% have either an Advanced or Ordinary Level Certificate.
All respondents participated willingly in the survey and were entitled to express their free and honest opinions. Industrial Psychology Consultants does not hold itself liable to any derogatory comments nor opinions expressed as part and through this survey. Our objective, however, is that this report may be used constructively towards creating organisations that inspire the support and commitment of their employees – ultimately maximizing return on human capital. Responses reflect the time wasters and reasons therefore during the period July to September 2013, the period in which data was collected.

Addressing Presenteeism Not Necessarily Absenteeism

Many companies are competent in monitoring and managing absenteeism but they often take presenteeism for granted. Absenteeism is defined as “all absence from work other than planned holidays and leave”[3] by an employee. With the right policies and procedures in place, it is fairly easy to monitor and manage absenteeism. In addition, our labour law[4] allows employers to be compensated (by paying employees pro-rata) for absenteeism. But beyond absenteeism, is a phenomenon we are increasingly observing called presenteeism. Presenteeism happens when employees are at work, but their cognitive energy is not devoted to their work. Presenteeism has therefore been defined as a state where an employee is physically present, but absent mentally from their work.[5]
The management objective is to increase employee effectiveness and productivity. It does not follow that if an employee is physically present at work they are also mentally present. Employees can be physically present but simply go through the motions of work while their attention is focused elsewhere. Employees going through presenteeism will not give their full attention to their jobs. Such employees are likely to be less productive, make more mistakes, provide lower quality service and be less innovative, which has repercussions for the organisation and its managers.
Where Is The Time Being Lost?1. Idling on the internet (47 minutes)
2. Employees running their own business on company time (40 minutes)
3. Engaging in “chit-chatter” with colleagues (35 minutes)
4. Running personal errands on and off company  premises (29 minutes)
5. Applying for other jobs (23 minutes)
6. Arriving late or leaving early (20 minutes)
7. Making and receiving  personal phone calls (14 minutes)
Unlike absenteeism where the employee is either present or absent, they will be varying degrees of presenteeism. In a rapidly changing work environment leaving employees to be “responsible” or to “moderate their own behaviour” may be a risky strategy. At the same time, what amount of control and oversight should managers put to ensure that the amount of distractions remains at a minimum? A modern example is the use of Facebook or Whatsapp during working hours: should employers allow employees to access social media during the day or should it be moderated and to what extent?

Where Exactly Is The Time Being Lost?

Our research suggests the there are seven (7) dominant time wasting activities that most employees engage in on a typical day. These are: Engaging in “chit-chatter” with colleagues; employees running their own business on company time; idling on the internet; running personal errands on and off company premises; making and receiving personal phone calls; applying for other jobs AND arriving late or leaving early.
Although the amount of time spent on each of these activities varies by individuals and industry, we observed that cumulatively employers may be losing as much as three and a half hours (3 ½ hours) each day as employees engage in these activities. In an 8 hour working day, this effectively means that an employee will spend close to 45% of their productive time doing things that do not contribute to what they are employed to do. There is no presenteeism that is great than this.

Internet and Social Media: Leaving Employees To Be Responsible Is Not A Strategy

Click here to download full report...

Editorial Team

This article was written by one of the consultants at IPC

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