Presenteeism: What It Is, How It Affects You, and How to Deal with It

If you’re an allergy sufferer, then showing up to work even when you feel awful (also known as presenteeism) is likely a normal occurrence. After all, you can’t just skip work, so you either slog through your symptoms or you take over-the-counter meds and deal with the subsequent fogginess. You feel crummy, but at least you showed up for work. That’s what really matters, right?

Absenteeism vs. presenteeism 

A growing number of researchers say “wrong.” Worries about money and job security mean that more and more people are coming into work sick, be it from an illness (flu season is upon us!) or a chronic condition like seasonal allergies. The subsequent loss of workplace productivity is such an issue that it’s been given a name: presenteeism. This differs of course from absenteeism, when you don’t go to work at all. With presenteeism you’re physically there. However, your focus and energy levels are hampered so you’re simply unable to give your best.

How presenteeism affects you 

The thing is, you may not even be aware of how much presenteeism is affecting your work and your life. Maybe you have a routine of taking OTC medications you think may help, loading up on caffeine to drag you through the drowsiness, and collapsing in exhaustion the second you’re home from work. Basically, you’re so used to feeling awful all the time that it becomes your baseline normal and you no longer notice that it’s costing you (and your company) a lot in productivity.

In his book Allergy-Free with Dr. Z, Dr. Zwetchkenbaum devotes an entire chapter to the presenteeism issue, emphasizing the idea that you don’t have to live like this. “As humans,” he writes, “it is our duty to take care of ourselves… But it is not our lot in life to feel tired, achy, or ‘off’ all of the time. Not even a majority of the time.” And the first step in dealing with the issue is recognizing that it’s an issue at all. By the way, while there are any number of causes for presenteeism, ranging from migraines to depression, the Harvard Business Review cites allergies as the number one cause, so your allergist’s office is a great place to start when seeking answers.

Are you suffering from presenteeism?

Take a step back and try to objectively look at how you feel. Are you constantly exhausted, achy,  sneezing, or sniffling? Do you get frequent headaches or sinus pain? Do you often feel “not quite right”? Sounds like it’s time to get yourself checked out by an allergist. Testing can determine what specific allergies you have and the proper medication can alleviate the symptoms with minimal side effects.


With the right medical care, the right diagnoses, and the right treatment, you can start feeling better than you ever thought possible and drastically reduce your presenteeism. You’d be amazed how much more alert and productive you are at work when you’re not constantly battling undiagnosed and untreated (or misdiagnosed and incorrectly treated) allergy symptoms. Allergy sufferers are absolute champs at “sucking it up” and showing up to work even when they feel awful, but it doesn’t have to be this way! And as always, AAPRI is here to help you, so contact us anytime.

A new pathway to better health ... through your inbox.

Sign up for our monthly email newsletter:
Share This