Career Focus


BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 13 March 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:S3-7185

“Presenteeism” is the human resources jargon for a work culture that fosters long hours, despite the resulting detriment to business, families, and individuals. But according to a report in IRS Employment Trends (1999;674:2), adopting formal written policies such as flexitime and paternity leave does little in itself to change things for the better. We know that information alone makes little, if any, difference to people's behaviour, so what does? Market forces are certainly influential - managers successful at creating environments where individuals can balance life and work will recruit and retain more talented workers, but may also be tempted to flog them for competitive advantage. Managers who succeed in balancing the life-work equation for their workers tend to have an ability to clarify what is important, can recognise the whole person, and continue to experiment with the way work is done. The rewards can be tangible, for “conflicts between work and personal priorities can be catalysts for identifying inefficiencies that would have otherwise have remained hidden and intractable.”

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