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Presenteeism: A Dangerous and Costly Problem for Companies

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It is important for every company to take care of their employees, especially when they get sick. Employees lend their skills and expertise to help the company reach its goals. So when they get sick, the company loses.

The company feels their absence because it leads to a loss of productivity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that absenteeism due to illness costs employers $225.8 billion every year, or about $1,685 per employee.

In addition, a separate report from the Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI) revealed that illness-related absences led to almost 1.5 billion days annually in productivity. For every dollar of nearly $950 billion spent on employee healthcare benefits, $0.61 of productivity is lost on illness and injury.

On Presenteeism

However, while absenteeism costs companies a lot of money, presenteeism is just as bad — even worse. While most people would rather stay home and rest when they feel unwell, others still go to work when they are sick.

It is more common than you assumed. In one survey, 70 percent of white-collar workers said they still went to work even when they felt sick. Most (38 percent of respondents) continued to show up because they did not want to fall behind. Meanwhile, a number of workers (30 percent) did not want to use their paid time off for illness. The rest (10 percent) said their bosses would expect them to work even if they were sick.

It might not seem like a big problem for the company. After all, the employee still contributes labor during the day. However, it creates hazards that can impact more people.

When workers still show up to work when they are showing symptoms of an illness, the health of other employees is at risk. The sickness might spread to more people, which means that, at some point, multiple people will lose productivity. The company will have to shoulder the cost of having several employees feeling unwell instead of just one.

No matter the reason behind the employee’s presenteeism, it is reckless. It places everyone, and their loved ones, in danger. For those who are relatively healthy, they might experience a sniffle. Those older and who have existing medical conditions might have to spend a few days in the hospital.

If employees were going to work with COVID-19, for example, which happened in a number of workplaces in the past year, entire organizations would suffer. The store or office will have to be shut down and sanitized while employees are tested for the presence of the virus. That leads to several days of temporary cessation of operations. Another study revealed that presenteeism costs businesses ten times more than absenteeism.

empty office

Presenteeism: No Benefit for Productivity

Presenteeism does not boost productivity, either. An employee who feels unwell will be unable to focus and give their all to their work. They show up for the sake of it and make less than stellar contributions.

In the United Kingdom (UK), an estimated 35 days are lost per worker every year due to presenteeism.

Stamp Out Presenteeism

Presenteeism is terrible for the company as well as the well-being of employees. Fortunately, it is a problem that is relatively easy to solve.

Employers should emphasize health among employees. Resources should be available to those who do not feel well. Right now, as employees return to the office, there are concerns over the possible spread of COVID-19. If need be, employers should offer regular testing to those showing symptoms or who have been exposed to someone infected. There are different types of tests for COVID-19. RT-PCR, which involves swabbing, is the most popular and most accurate. Employees can also get a COVID-19 blood test to check for previous infection or antibodies that enable the immune system to fight off the virus.

Employees should also be provided paid sick leaves. People will persist in going to work if they know that their absence will mean that their pay will be deducted. Employees also show up because they do not want to lose their paid vacation days. A paid sick leave will solve the problem.

Employers can also allow employees who feel well enough to work to stay in the comfort of their own homes. The employees will still report and submit output, but they will not spread the virus among their colleagues.

Presenteeism is not a good thing. It is harmful to the entire company because it does not translate to productivity, and it can make more employees sick, which will translate to more absences. Employees should be encouraged to stay home if they feel unwell.

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