presenteeism

[ prez-uhn-tee-iz-uhm ]
/ ˌprɛz ənˈti ɪz əm /

noun

the practice of coming to work despite illness, injury, anxiety, etc., often resulting in reduced productivity.
the practice of working long hours at a job without the real need to do so.

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Origin of presenteeism

First recorded in 1930–35; present + -ee + -ism; modeled on absenteeism
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

VOCAB BUILDER

What does presenteeism mean?

Presenteeism is the practice of employees habitually coming to work when they shouldn’t—especially coming in sick or working overly long hours.

Presenteeism is modeled after absenteeism, which is the opposite: employees habitually not coming to work. Although presenteeism was once used in a neutral or even positive way to refer to workers showing up for their jobs, it is now almost always used negatively.

Example: Companies that put an overemphasis on productivity often end up dealing with presenteeism and all of its negative effects—including decreased productivity.

Where does presenteeism come from?

Absenteeism is first recorded in the 1820s, but the first records of presenteeism don’t show up (show up—get it?) until more than 100 years later, in the 1930s. Presenteeism is a play on absenteeism, which is formed from the word absentee (meaning “someone who is absent, especially from school or work”) and the suffix -ism, indicating the practice of something. Presentee is a word, but it’s typically not used to mean “someone who is present.”

Presenteeism was originally used to simply mean “the practice of employees showing up as they should.” For example, instead of discouraging absenteeism, some companies instead encouraged presenteeism. Around the 1980s, though, presenteeism started to be used in more negative ways. Sometimes it was used to refer to situations in which workers were present but were not working at their full ability (because they were mentally checked out, as we might say today). Eventually, it came to refer to employees consistently showing up for work when they shouldn’t, especially when sick (and likely to get their fellow employees sick).

Presenteeism can happen in all levels of jobs, and it can be caused by a lot of factors. Employees may show up sick because they don’t get paid for sick days and can’t afford to miss work. Or workers may feel pressure to be visible in the office—and to not leave before their boss does—leading to unnecessarily long hours. Studies suggest that presenteeism isn’t good for anybody: it’s bad for workers because it can lead to poor health and burnout, and it’s bad for employers because it can actually reduce productivity.

Did you know ... ?

What are some words that share a root or word element with presenteeism

 

What are some words that often get used in discussing presenteeism?

 

How is presenteeism used in real life?

Presenteeism is often used in the context of workplace issues, especially its impact on productivity and employee health. Healthcare professionals also discuss it alongside related issues, like work stress. It is almost always discussed in terms of its negative effects.

 

 

Try using presenteeism!

How is presenteeism most commonly used? 

A. positively
B. negatively
C. neutrally

British Dictionary definitions for presenteeism

presenteeism
/ (ˌprɛzənˈtiːɪzəm) /

noun

the practice of persistently working longer hours and taking fewer holidays than the terms of one's employment demand, esp as a result of fear of losing one's job

Word Origin for presenteeism

C20: a play on absenteeism
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012