Updated: Jul 11, 2022
I go to business network meetings.
I’ll be honest and say I ‘stand out’ in a room full of lawyers, accountants, HR managers, council leaders, etc.
Until I start talking, many think a Sex, Love & Relationship Coach doesn’t belong in a room where we discuss important business matters around growth and strategy.
But when they hear me talk about presenteeism, the antithesis to absenteeism their ears prick up. Intrigued as to how on earth this can possibly relate to their business.
I talk about how men and women will work longer hours and stay at work to avoid going home. To avoid problems. They prefer to withdraw and distract themselves from the problems they have rather than admitting they’re there and facing them.
If you are happy at home and in your relationship, you want to go home and spend time with your partner or family.
Of course there are other reasons for which people may work longer hours than they should; fear of losing their job, striving for a promotion, blame culture, workplace culture, etc. We have all seen the American films of the man overworking to a job that isn’t satisfying and realising what he’s missing out from, because in the end he chooses his family.
So when I mention presenteeism can be because of problems at home, most people assume domestic violence. I don’t deny that there will be people who do stay at work for their own safety, although sometimes those suffering from domestic violence feel safer leaving work to get home ‘on time’ in case they are questioned for staying later ‘where have you been?’, ’you’re cheating’, etc.
What I am referring to is people who aren’t able to communicate in a relationship. Maybe they can’t set boundaries with their partner and feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with possible demands or requests. Maybe they aren’t clear on their needs and don’t know how to ask for what they want. Maybe they are experiencing sexual dysfunction which spill over into the relationship because they don’t have the tools for vulnerable communication.
These people are finding an excuse. An excuse to avoid confronting their problems and dealing with them and because of this they go to work. Working is an excuse which society deems acceptable and in fact one to be celebrated. Work longer, achieve more. Couples also use their children as an excuse to avoid dealing with sexual and relationship issues and I talk about that here.
In men I see it often in The Forgotten Father. Men who are successful at work, they will wait for their children to be older before things get better, instead of working things out at home. How many ‘successful men’ do you see who are fathers and in their 40s and early 50s getting divorced or separated?
So what’s the issue for businesses? When needs aren’t being met and the container in a relationship is not one of open communication, people can experience anxiety or depression. They learn to hold it in, keep it trapped - anxiety. Or they learn to dissociate and shut down - depression. The stress of being in a relationship that isn’t working can cause mental health breakdown. It affects the body, and those working in the field of trauma are seeing more and more how unhealthy environments cause our bodies stress and to become ill. Colleagues who are struggling can be more reactive to their work environment and colleagues. They can feel that the world is against them when they don’t have any support at home or quite simply don’t feel ‘seen’ or ‘heard’.
I know most business are aware of the problems of mental health breakdown and productivity. That when colleagues aren’t well, even if they are at work longer their productivity can be seriously reduced. So I don’t need to go into that here.
What I want to bring to people’s attention is:
That colleague who is always ‘available’ - might be running away from something.
That colleague who’s always at work until late - might feel lonely.
That colleague who comes in on their day off - could be avoiding something.
If you own a business, manage people or work in the HR department how can you be supporting your colleagues who may be struggling at home?
The first step could be quite simply, to talk about presenteeism and relationships. Sometimes we just need to be made aware of our patterns to be able to change them and quite often presenteeism is simply an unconscious choice. Or it can be a choice because we don’t know there are other options and access to support available.
Carla Crivaro is a trauma-informed and certified Sex, Love & Relationship Coach, she works with men and women internationally to reach their goals in delicious sex, profound love and authentic relationships. Carla helps men and women understand themselves and each other, sexually and relationally, in and out of the bedroom. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.