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The rise of e-presenteeism


20 July 2020 at 8:21 am
Maggie Coggan
We take a look at what it is and how your organisation can nip it in the bud 


Maggie Coggan | 20 July 2020 at 8:21 am


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The rise of e-presenteeism
20 July 2020 at 8:21 am

We take a look at what it is and how your organisation can nip it in the bud 

In simple terms, presenteeism means you physically show up to work, but due to exhaustion, burnout or poor mental health, your productivity levels are down.   

It’s a phenomenon that costs the Australian economy $34 billion each year. 

Over time, organisations have become increasingly aware of the issue and found ways to deal with it. But, with many of us working from home, surrounded by constant distractions and facing decreased motivation levels, e-presenteeism is now on the rise.

Unlike the more traditional presenteeism, this is where employees feel they should always be available online and working, leading to burnout and decreased productivity levels.  

So what can your organisation do about it? We sat down with Carol Lewis, from the Human Equation, for some advice. 

Hey Carol, so what is e-presenteeism, and why is it so bad? 

Presenteeism generally is when an employee is not engaged or distracted, and obviously that’s harder to monitor at the moment because we don’t have a line of sight to people. During COVID we know that we’re all dealing with a heap more distractions than we normally would. [There is] both that cognitive distraction, driven by the uncertainty of our situation, but also there might be other people working in your house who might have kids not being able to go to school. 

That means you are seeing reduced productivity, which impacts on your ability to deliver efficient and effective services to your clients. It also makes people more prone to errors because they lose focus. They might forget to do things, might make mistakes in their work. And we know that rework costs a lot of money.

What can an employer do about this? 

Employers need to think about that and structure their strategies appropriately. So, for engagement levels for example, it’s really important that employers are very deliberate about opportunities to keep building relationships internally. We are missing out on the incidental chat at the photocopier or while you’re out for a coffee. So being very deliberate about that. It doesn’t happen if you leave it to chance.

Electronic social interactions and physical social interactions are pretty different. How can an employer make sure these interactions are genuine?  

You do need to be clever about the design and be clear about the purpose, because electronic interactions take a lot more effort and planning than a walk to the coffee shop does. 

So this can be anything from setting up a monthly book club, where you can talk about the books you’re reading, or spending time to talk about what you did on the weekend, or sharing tips on how to stay fit during quarantine. Whatever it is, it’s just important that your employer is providing some kind of structure. 


Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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