Coming to work sick can cost companies in lost productivity

2012-11-18T00:00:00Z 2012-11-21T17:27:13Z Coming to work sick can cost companies in lost productivityby Bob Moulesong Times Correspondent
November 18, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Last week's feature focused on employee absenteeism and the associated costs to an organization. This week, JobsSunday looks at presenteeism and how it impact employee productivity.

What is presenteeism? Presenteeism is a situation where employees come to work impaired by an illness, injury or medical condition. It means attending work even when the employee feels unhealthy.

This condition is increasing in the workplace at a fast pace. According to a CCH survey prepared by Wolters Kluwer Law & Business, 38 percent of firms admitted to having this problem. Employers who said presenteeism was a problem at their firms reported that as many as 80 percent of sick employees were coming to work with short-term illnesses, such as colds or flu.

Since these types of conditions are easily spread they are likely to affect both visiting customers as well as co-workers on the job. This can add to absenteeism as well as additional presenteeism.

Full-fledged absenteeism is easier to measure in terms of day off for employees. Presenteeism is not as easy to measure because the loss of productivity is much more hidden.

The employee is at the job but not performing at 100 percent due to their physical impairment. But employees suffering from presenteeism still cost employers the same amount in wages and healthcare benefits as those working at full capacity.

More than 58 percent of surveyed employers attributed the presenteeism in their company to chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and chronic back pain. 43 percent noted that presenteeism was due to mental health issues like anxiety and depression, while 39 percent said it was because of physical injuries such as sprains and broken bones.

All of these conditions factor in to lost productivity, which translates into lost profits.

Why do employees show up for work when their bodies and their common sense tell them not to?

The top four reasons for presenteeism, according to CCH researchers, are --

· employees have too much work to do. 65 percent of employees surveyed stated that their work piles up while they are off sick, and that they just have more to do when they return. So they go to work even when feeling under the weather.

· no one is available to cover their workloads. 56 percent of employees surveyed stated that their work is specialized enough that it cannot simply be transferred to another employee. That means the work waits for their return.

· employees are reluctant to use vacation time or paid personal time for illnesses. 55 percent of those surveyed stated that sick time is not paid time, therefore the choices are showing up anyway or using paid personal time. Few employees want to use their hard-earned paid time when ill.

· employees come to work with their impairments because they fear their employers may think they are less committed to their jobs. 50 percent of employees stated that their fear of being fired because of no-shows impacts their decision on going to work when ill.

There are several steps that employers can take that will help alleviate presenteeism and its toll on the company. According to the CCH survey, the following were the most being used by companies:

· alternative Work Arrangement (54 percent)

· telecommuting (53 percent)

· compressed work week (45 percent)

· flu shot programs (66 percent)

· leave for school function policy (54 percent)

· emergency child care policy (32 percent)

· job sharing program (38 percent)

· onsite child care (32 percent)

· wellness programs (60 percent)

Most companies must take action if they want to see this developing problem curbed. According to the survey, nearly 66 percent of survey respondents offer some or all of the above listed programs. Another option being offered by many firms are health maintenance programs, which include proper fitness, diet and hygiene classes. Together, these programs can help promote a healthier, more profitable organization.

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