The Real Costs of Sick Employees

The Real Costs of Sick Employees at Work and Tips to Combat It

Colder weather is here and you have probably already begun hearing that familiar chorus of sniffles and coughs around the office.  But sick employees showing up to work is a bigger issue than just the spreading of germs – it also impacts your bottom line by tanking productivity. Employees who aren’t feeling well but trying to power through at the office are likely to work more slowly and could potentially have cloudy judgment that results in mistakes. Or – even worse, spread their illness throughout the office or to valued customers.

There’s actually a term for this phenomenon called ‘presenteeism’. In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, presenteeism was coined to define the practice of employees showing up to work when ill and not performing at their usual level of productivity. The total cost of this issue has been increasing for U.S employers over the years, with estimations of losses around $150 to $250 billion each year, according to a study conducted at Cornell University.

So what are some things you can do as an employer to cut your losses and keep sick employees at home? Janet Flewelling, managing director of service operations for Insperity offers up three potential avenues for employers to  combat the problem of presenteeism in the Chicago Business Journal

Corporate Culture: “One way to help alleviate this pattern of behavior is to change the culture so that genuinely ill or contagious employees are encouraged to stay home.” Establish and communicate guidelines that help employees understand when they should stay home and when it is okay to return to work after not feeling well. When possible, consider allowing sick employees to work from home.

Employee Wellness Programs: “Establishing an employee wellness program may help workers focus on their health, which can lead to the prevention of serious illnesses and other conditions that impact productivity.” A solid company wellness program can make employees much more conscious of making smart, healthy choices. Supplying your employees with direct paths to regular health screenings, seasonal flu shots and other preventative measures give your company a better chance at keeping contagious illnesses at bay.

PTO Programs: “In addition to giving employees the flexibility to decide how to use their time, this arrangement can potentially reduce the abuse of sick time.” Combining all paid time off into a single bank of days allow employees the flexibility to take days off in a way that will meet their individual needs. Offering some degree of flexibility in schedules is also a sure fire way to boost company morale which in turn fosters greater productivity throughout an organization.

Presenteeism can and does have a draining impact on a company’s objectives and finances.  Employers that make a concerted effort to develop a workplace that fosters healthy and highly productive employees will reduce instances of presenteeism and move ahead in meeting financial goals, creating a win-win scenario for all involved.

Nicole Botti, Staff Writer, IAB Health Productions, LLC

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