Don’t bother coming in to work…Really

Why it’s sometimes better to have employees stay at home

What’s more valuable, an employee home in bed or one sitting in the office?  The answer isn’t quite as obvious as it seems.  The term used to describe employees who show up for work, but aren’t fully engaged or productive because of their own personal health issues or because they are distracted by a stressful issue outside of work, is called presenteeism.

And it’s serious.

And costly.

In fact, a study by The Employers Health Coalition estimated that presenteeism is up to 7 ½ times more costly to employers than absenteeism. Another source, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), places the cost of presenteeism to U.S. organizations at $180 billion annually (compared to absenteeism at $118 billion a year). And in our current economic climate, when jobs are at a premium and living costs are on the rise, presenteeism is a growing issue.

But isn’t it good that employees are dedicated enough to show up even when they’re sick or seriously distracted?  Not necessarily.  An employee that’s at less than 100 percent could impact product quality, deliver poor customer service or increase the chance for injury to themselves or others. Their illness might linger because they’re pushing themselves, so their diminished capacity actually affects more days. And, contagious employees create more sick employees, simply compounding the problem. While all these costs of presenteeism are hard to quantify, you can see the seriousness of the issue.

So how are businesses coping? A segment reported the following employer approaches:

  • 62 percent send sick employees home
  • 41 percent educate employees on the importance of staying home when sick
  • 36 percent try to discourage employees from coming to work when they’re ill

All those are good, but we think there are some other proactive ways to address presenteeism as well. However, feeling a bit flushed, perhaps those should be saved till our next blog…