The hidden dangers of attending work while unwell: A survey study of presenteeism among UK pharmacists.

K. Niven, N. Ciborowska

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Presenteeism refers to the phenomenon whereby employees continue to attend work while unwell. Existing research suggests that presentee workers may suffer consequences to their health and mental strain. In this paper, we investigate whether such consequences also have downstream effects in terms of the errors people make at work. We studied the effects of presenteeism among a large sample of pharmacists (N = 1205), an occupation in which errors made can be safety-critical, with implications for patient health. Seventy-six percent of the pharmacists in our sample were classed as presentee, having attending work while unwell enough to have taken time off on at least two occasions over the previous year. Presentee pharmacists made significantly more minor errors and serious mistakes, such as dispensing errors, compared to non-presentee pharmacists. They also experienced greater feelings of anxiety and depression. Mediation analyses suggested that higher anxiety rates explained why presentee employees made more errors at work. Presenteeism therefore has significant health costs for both workers and their beneficiaries, and can be classed as an important work-related stressor.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207-221
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Stress Management
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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