Why do employees attend work sick? The assessment and relevance of opposite presenteeism motivations

Thomas Van Waeyenberg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Presenteeism, the act of attending work while sick, has gained significant research attention. However, the motivations driving this behaviour remain underexplored. This study seeks to contribute to this area by developing and validating a measurement tool that captures two distinct motivations for presenteeism: voluntary, stemming from personal choice, and involuntary, resulting from external pressures. Across four studies involving 1021 respondents from both the general working population and contexts known for high levels of presenteeism, the reliability and validity of an 8-item presenteeism motivation scale were established. Studies 1 and 2 confirmed the scale's two-factor structure and reliability. Study 3 further demonstrated its convergent, concurrent, and discriminant validity, as well as its ability to detect anticipated sex differences in presenteeism tendencies. Study 4 provided evidence towards criterion related validity, showing differential effects on employee well-being over time. Voluntarily presenteeism was associated with higher levels of work engagement and lower burnout rates, while involuntary presenteeism exhibited the opposite pattern. Additionally, the scale demonstrated measurement invariance across different working populations. The theoretical and managerial implications of these findings are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)536-554
JournalJournal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology
Issue number2
Early online date20 Nov 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Nov 2023


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