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Health & Wellbeing

Health and Wellbeing at Work


The Presenteeism Decision-Making Process - How do we Decide Whether to Work or Not, When We're Sick?

13 Mar 2024
Health and Conditions

Research on presenteeism, defined as working when feeling unwell, is recognised as highly prevalent phenomenon across all occupations and significantly costly not only in terms of organisational productivity but also as a potential risk factor for employee health & wellbeing.  However, scholars have also identified positive aspects of presenteeism for both health and performance. For example, presenteeism has been positively associated with individuals’ increased performance evaluation under high work demands and can even be therapeutic for those who work in a supportive social environment with adjusted demands, presenting a potentially positive alternative to long-term sickness absence. If we are to improve health and productivity outcomes by reducing dysfunctional presenteeism and promoting the appropriate use of functional presenteeism, we need to help individuals decide when they should take sickness absence, when they should continue to work, and under what circumstances. However, little is known about the decision-making process underpinning presenteeism behaviour. 


In this presentation Dr Zara Whysall will share the presenteeism decision-making model (PDM, Whysall et al., 2023), which outlines four stages employees go through when making these decisions: trigger, options, evaluation, feedback. This will be brought to life by findings from her recent research with Huijun (Regen) Chen (Nottingham Trent University) and Professor Maria Karanika-Murray (University of Leicester) involving a diary study completed by 121 adults every working day for 2 to 6 weeks, in which they were experiencing ill-health, they were asked a series of questions to reflect on their health and work status, how they made their decision, and its consequences.


Hilary Winch, Chair, NHS Health at Work Network and Head of Workplace Health, Safety & Wellbeing, Norfolk & Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Nicola Bullen, Deputy Chair, NHS Health at Work Network and Assistant Director, Occupational Health, Safety & Wellbeing, University Hospitals Derby & Burton NHS Foundation Trust
Dr Zara Whysall, Associate Professor and Research Impact Director, Nottingham Trent University and Kiddy & Partners



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