Down with presenteeism: long live pareto

1 min read

Don't get hung up on the all-consuming 80% -- make time for the big-ticket 20%, says WM editor Max Gosney

It looks like Sicknote Steve in quality control might be due an apology. After ranting about his ability to turn every snuffle into a new viral strain, it turns out Steve and his kin are actually the innocent party in our war on absenteeism. Presenteeism is a far bigger menace, according to latest research. Workplaces where staff work through illness are likely to see lower performance and overall higher sickness absence, research by the Work Foundation and AXA PPP shows. Which means it's time to get tough on Black Box Bobs. These factory stalwarts – so-called because of their indestructibility to illness – can doom entire departments to the duvet because of a stubborn refusal to stay away. But presenteeism is not a problem limited to the factory floor. The bug has spread to management and mutated into a far deadlier form. An obsession with being in the office, too busy to take a lunch or holiday, shrugging off a growing mental fatigue... all are classic symptoms of management presenteeism. Britain is a breeding ground for the disease. Our cultural values celebrate doggedness and conformity; we adore the stoic worker who stays late to get the job done. In contrast, their colleague who went home early because they worked smart, as well as hard, is eyed with suspicion. The importance of breaking this mindset was brought home to me at a Best Factory Awards judging visit last month. The host company revealed how they'd struck upon their most valuable business development technique by getting out and touring another factory. It could have been a different story. Those managers could have dismissed a factory tour as frivolous and buried their heads back in the inbox. But they had the courage to see beyond short-term pain to the long-term gain, which the decision has ultimately delivered. It's the Pareto principle in action. Don't get hung up on the all-consuming 80%: dedicating some diary time to chasing down the big-ticket 20% will deliver far more impressive results. See you on one of our WM Manufacturing Conference factory tours in November.