Presenteeism in the Workplace

Many people know that when they're sick they're not operating at their best, but our culture rewards workers who "power through" to get the job done. What many people don't realize is that going to work sick can have major, life-changing consequences, contributing to serious psychological and physical issues. Professor Frances Jorgensen is studying potential links between workplace accidents and injuries and "presenteeism", or working despite being ill, and how workplace accidents and injuries associated with presenteeism can be reduced or eliminated.

Professor Jorgensen wants to identify how job stressors and demands are experienced when those workers are trying to "power through", so she approached both the British Columbia Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) and Island Health (VIHA) to participate in her research. Now, with funding from SSHRC, Jorgensen is setting out to gather data from employees who have direct contact with customers, clients, and/or patients, or those referred to as “front-line service employees”.

With the BCGEU and VIHA's participation, she has a wide range of front line service employees to survey, and a huge variety of experience across worksite and work types. She is setting out to create a more nuanced understanding of why frontline service employees across industries and employment types, from temporary to full-time, permanent, working in BC, might decide to come to work when sick or injured.

Jorgensen expects to use this information to help make policy makers, employers, and the public more aware of the high prevalence of presenteeism, and to determine how BC can help prevent workplace accidents and injuries caused by presenteeism amongst frontline service employees.