These winter days it is common to find people at work in both public and private offices clad head to toe in warm clothes, with running nose, and sneezing.

More and more people are present at work irrespective of their health status and other obligations. Presenteeism is “the practice of persistently working longer hours and taking fewer holidays than the terms of one’s employment demand.” The reason can be the fear of losing one’s job.

Workaholics work compulsively in an obsessive manner and do not take time off. There is also a peculiar group of people belonging mainly to the upper echelon in the hierarchy who do not take leave simply because they ‘they don’t have time’ or feel that the machinery will grind to a halt due to their absence, or worse still fear that others might learn the tricks of the trade and take over ultimately. And finally presenteeism is for additional compensation.

Many public sector workers have taken to adopting presenteeism with the introduction of payment in cash in lieu of leave not taken. In the private sector there is a disguised form of promoting presenteeism with the offer of attendance bonus for those who take few or no leaves at all. I remember the case of a close friend of mine who did not want to miss the payout and actually discharged himself from hospital to report back to work despite being under treatment for a disc problem. For these reasons presenteeism is increasing.

Leave is meant to be taken on account of sickness, convalescence, or for some personal obligations such as the need to attend to, amongst others, religious ceremonies and for study purposes. The grant of leave for these reasons should not be a problem or the cause of any sanctions. Nevertheless people go to work irrespective of such and other obligations, including prize-giving function of their children, the funeral of a relative/friend, and/or the state of their health. Those in the latter category may infect others if they have a virus and also more importantly they function at less than optimum capacity and are prone to making mistakes… In fact these people are only working longer but not harder.

Research conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has shown that longer hours of work is not productive. Presenteeism can cause certain diseases like stress, high BP, stroke. There should not be any compromise between leave of absence and our wellbeing. And this brings me to the Hebrew saying, which Robin Sharma quotes quite often, about the time we should devote for ourselves: “When we are young we sacrifice all our health for wealth. And we get old we are ready to spend all our wealth for a day of good health.”

Take leave of absence when needed. It is meant for your well-being.

* Published in print edition on 24 June 2016

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