Presenteeism – a name which means working while sick - isn't always productive, researchers have found.

"Secure employees don't fear retribution for an occasional absence because of sickness," say study author Gary Johns, a management professor at Concordia's John Molson School of Business.

The author pointed out that often, a person might feel socially obligated to attend work despite illness, while other employees felt organizational pressure to attend work despite medical discomfort.

In the study, Johns surveyed around 450 individuals on their job requirements, work experience, absenteeism and presenteeism.

The study found presenteeism was elevated among workers engaged in interdependent projects or teamwork and is more frequent when people face job insecurity and impermanent job status.

Those who were insecure about their jobs also engaged in more presenteeism. "Presentees felt a compulsion to attend despite illness," said Johns.

Absenteeism is more elevated in unionized work settings or when unemployment is low.

Organizations, employers and human resources departments have traditionally examined way to cub absenteeism, but have paid little attention to presenteeism. ‘

"Estimating the cost of absenteeism is more tangible than counting the impact of presenteeism," say Johns. "Yet a worker's absence or presence during illness can have both cost and benefits for constituents."

The study was published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.