Turning up at work when sick? It will affect your job satisfaction, study suggests

If you're the office martyr who turns up despite being ill, then beware: it could be affecting your job satisfaction, your level of engagement with your role – and may even mean you're addicted to work.

People may judge their work to be of lower quality, produce less and perform worse compared to what they expect of themselves.
Dr Maria Karanika-Murray, Nottingham Trent University

If you're the office martyr who turns up despite being ill, then beware: it could be affecting your job satisfaction, your level of engagement with your role – and may even mean you're addicted to work.

A team at Nottingham Trent University carried out a preliminary study into the psychological effects of sickness 'presenteeism' – investigating the implications of employees attending work when not well enough.

Previous research has suggested that it can cost employers up to three times more than absenteeism, mainly because of decreased productivity. More than half of workers have previously admitted to the phenomenon, which is known to have negative consequences for health of both the individual and the wider workforce.

The psychologists, writing in the journal Social Science and Medicine carried out an online survey of more than 150 employees at different organisations, to better understand the links between sickness presenteeism, job satisfaction, work engagement and work addiction.

They found that presenteeism was strongly – and negatively – associated with job satisfaction and work engagement, with both decreasing as presenteeism increased.

And people who reported high levels of presenteeism were also likely to report high addiction to their work, which is in turn linked to job dissatisfaction, it was found.

The researchers – based in the University's School of Social Sciences – argue that, while employees may be physically present for their work, they are in fact psychologically absent.

They found evidence, however, that reduced engagement with their work could actually protect some employees from reduced job satisfaction when they were sick. This is because presenteeism decreases individuals' positive evaluations of their work, which is an important determinant of job satisfaction.

Being occupied with work while ill, meanwhile, seemed to fuel employees' propensity to addiction to work, which in turn had a negative effect on job satisfaction.

The researchers believe that sickness presenteeism may affect satisfaction with employees' work because, mentally and physically, the individual is unable to perform their full capacity and achieve the usual expected targets.

"People may disengage from work when ill, but still feel a need to work because they are physically present in the workplace," said Dr Maria Karanika-Murray, a Psychologist in Nottingham Trent University's School of Social Sciences.

She said: "People who attend work while ill may judge their work to be of lower quality, produce less and perform worse compared to what they expect of themselves. They are not able to engage with work as they would normally and this can lead to reduced productivity and in turn lower levels of satisfaction.

"As well as having a negative impact on employee health and being costly for organisations, sickness presenteeism is also a risk factor for future poor health and mental wellbeing. Understanding the effect that presenteeism is having on organisations and their employees can also enable them to develop effective interventions to tackle it."

Co-author Professor Mark Griffiths, also at Nottingham Trent University, said: "Work addiction is an under-studied phenomenon, and this study provides empirical evidence that working while ill is associated with workaholism and that in the long run it is neither good for the individual nor the organisation."

The study also involved Halley Miguel Pontes, Clinical Psychologist and Researcher at Nottingham Trent University and Dr Caroline Biron of Laval University in Canada.

Turning up at work when sick? It will affect your job satisfaction, study suggests

Published on 5 August 2015
  • Category: Research; School of Social Sciences

Still need help?

+44 (0)115 941 8418