August 12, 2022

Absenteeism has always been a huge challenge to the productive human activities. From the earliest days of the hunting-gathering civilizations to the most sophisticated aerospace industries.

Let us imagine the impact of the absence of a negligent hunter on stalking a big prey. Or the disappearance of a drunken farmer at planting season. Or even the temporary leave of a mechatronics expert from a spaceship assembly line. And such operational risk is found again in the context of freight, retail, education and hospitality.

Absence can truly be a problem. Even when unnoticed... After all, it serves as a red flag of an individual’s irrelevance in the context. And, exactly for that reason, absenteeism has become a compelling indicator of performance and operational risk to manage business activities.

Yet... how about the absent presence?

Yes. That sluggish body, those lackluster eyes, that unexpressive soul, that apathetic heart, that irresolute stride...

Countless studies on the phenomenon have been carried out over time. And the engagement indicators themselves aim, naturally, at mapping the level of genuine presence in the shared environment. Being truly present means achieving full realization of the senses in a delicate balance. Presence goes far beyond participation. It requires affective intention in the action: something rare in the face of so many offenders and distractions.

We already know that the connection with the purpose, the performance by leaders, a setting of trust and commitment, the alignment between values and beliefs, the development path, the scope of the activities, the feeling of being influential and included, the layout of the workplace and its systems, and the perception of fair compensation are some of the determining factors of genuine presence.

After all, being passionate about what one does, does not necessarily imply being passionate about where one does it. Such distinctive nature is exactly the core of the contemporary question around the post-pandemic labor world. Understanding that the health-related distancing brought deep psychic and social implications is realizing the established drivers of engagement and belongingness have lost their effectiveness.

Today, the real possibility of one’s being 100% present in a relationship is also in check. In an ephemeral, volatile and unintelligible world, what is the space for solid edifications?

The implications of the abstraction of the workplace is something yet to be studied. For now, it only raises passions and experiments, including with some leaders advocating for their own benefit according to their preferences and convictions. In any case, the wear and tear of the social fabric observed in the distancing of interaction will be yet another accelerator to the presenteeism already seen since always at offices, fields, stores and factories. Would the comfort of home have turned the work relationship again into something transactional capable of generating wealth to be given meaning in other life dimensions?

A “new” term is now emerging: quiet quitting! I prefer hide-and-seek :)

An invitation to make as little as possible at the work environment, making room to other activities, people and interests. Apparently, nothing new. Yet, with a certain contemporary connotation exactly for associating the multiple possibilities made feasible when the workplace is fragmented, the prohibition of telecommuting has become an anachronous taboo and productivity control mechanisms have been ridiculed.

It is still a paradox. At least, an irony.

Indeed. Because work has been reducing dramatically its relevant participation in the generation of wealth in a digital setting. Companies need increasingly fewer people allocated per monetary unit earned. That is the essence of exponential potential. To such an extent that, today, the need for a new digital tax on tech companies to transfer income to the millions of digitally-excluded workers is under debate.

Thus, the hide-and-seek is an interesting turn of events... maybe for a fortunate few.


Daniel Augusto Motta é Managing Partner e CEO da BMI Blue Management Institute. Doutor em Economia pela USP, Mestre em Economia pela FGV-EAESP e Bacharel em Economia pela USP. É Alumni OPM Harvard Business School. Atua também como Managing Partner da corporate venture capital WhiteFox sediada em San Francisco (EUA), como Senior Tupinambá Maverick na content tech Bossa.etc e com Membro do Conselho de Administração da Afferolab. Também atua como Diretor de Planejamento Estratégico da UNIBES e Membro do Conselho Deliberativo do MASP. Foi Membro-Fundador da Sociedade Brasileira de Finanças. Foi Professor nos MBAs da Fundação Dom Cabral, Insper, FGV, ESPM e PUC-SP. É autor de diversos artigos publicados por Valor Econômico, EXAME, VocêSA e Folha de São Paulo, e também tem três artigos publicados pela Harvard Business Review Brasil. É autor dos livros best-sellers A Liderança Essencial, Anthesis e Data Insights.