Science Finds One of the Biggest Signs Workers Hate Their Jobs

Why do some people insist on dragging themselves to work even though they are sick? A new study explains why your coworkers are turning the office into contagion central.

In a paper published today in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, doctors Mariella Miaglia and Gary Johns presented their findings on the causes for presenteeism (the act of attending work while sick), which is estimated to cost the U.S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars in lost on-the-job productivity a year.

After running a meta-analysis of 61 previous studies on presenteeism involving 175,965 participants, the researchers found that heavy job demands, stress and job insecurity were the main reasons for why people who are ill still show up for work.

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“Working while ill can compound the effects of the initial illness and result in negative job attitudes and withdrawal from work,” said Miraglia, a lecturer at the University of East Anglia. “However, the possible negative consequences of being absent can prompt employees to show up ill or to return to work when not totally recovered.”

Another main cause for presenteeism ran counter to the more negative reasons for why people show up to work sick however: high job satisfaction. According to the study, those who are more engaged with their work and feel a sense of commitment to their organizations are also more likely to contribute to presenteeism because they want to “go the extra mile.”

Ultimately, presenteeism is more easily fixed by management action than absenteeism, according to the researchers.

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“Organisations may benefit from well-designed jobs that limit the level of demands to which employees are exposed to every day, for example by reducing excessive workload, time pressure and overtime work, as well as making sure they have the resources they need.” Miraglia writes.

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