The cost of presenteeism to your business

It’s the counterpart to absenteeism and it’s becoming an increasingly important part of discussions on productivity in the modern workplace. And though it isn’t measurable in the way that absenteeism is, presenteeism is now thought to be much more costly to businesses when it comes to productivity loss, decreasing a person’s output by at least one third according to a Harvard Business Review article.

A recent report prepared for Pathology Awareness Australia (PAA) on improving the use of health resources, quantifies the cost to the Australian economy associated with presenteeism at approximately $34 billion per annum. Individual lifestyle factors and negative workplace conditions are high risk factors that contribute to this cost.

Presenteeism is the word used when people head to work when they’re probably too sick to be there and are not fully functioning. It not only affects productivity but can also be a risk for future sickness absences, not just for the individual concerned but for fellow workers.

Employers are best placed to address presenteeism challenges when they shift their focus from absence management to health management. This is where workplace health and wellbeing programs come in to play, as they can help individual workers understand and tackle contributing factors, such as stress, poor engagement, and health status. Here are just a few areas in which this can take effect:

  1. Overall physical health
    • Fund important health appraisals and skin checks to help your employees understand aspects of their current health status and start to manage health risks.
  2. Work Health Assessments
    • Conduct an online assessment to gauge the health of your organisation and start pinpointing issues that might undermine productivity and job performance.
  3. Nutrition
    • Put on cooking demonstrations to help your employee’s plate up exciting meals that are nutritious and easy to prepare.
  4. Ergonomics
    • Provide information to your employees on how to set up a work station and increase mobility to help minimise strain on the body.
  5. Physical activity
    • Consider introducing an interactive online challenge aimed at encouraging movement and activity throughout the working day and maximising employee engagement and connections.
  6. Mental health


Australian Government. Australian Public Service Commission. APS human capital matters; Issue 5; Managing presenteeism [Online] 2012 [Accessed June 2016] Available from:

Carter L. ABC. Presenteeism costs economy $34 billion a year through lost productivity, report shows [Online; last updated Apr 2016; accessed June 2016] Available from:

Hemp P. Harvard Business Review. Presenteeism: At work—but out of it [Online] 2004 [Accessed June 2016] Available from:

The Centre for International Economics. The economic value of pathology: achieving better health, and a better use of health resources [Online; accessed June 2016] Available from:

This information has been developed and reviewed for Bupa by health professionals. To the best of their knowledge it is current and based on reputable sources of medical research. It should be used as a guide only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional medical or other health professional advice. Bupa HI Pty Ltd makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. Bupa HI is not liable for any loss or damage you suffer arising out of the use of or reliance on the information, except that which cannot be excluded by law. We recommend that you consult your doctor or other qualified health professional if you have questions or concerns about your health.