Getting 100%

A healthy approach to presenteeism

Given the considerable cost of presenteeism (when employees come to work but aren’t at 100 percent), what’s a business to do?

We already discussed the considerable impact of presenteeism to your bottom line-over $180 billion annually according to one study-when product quality, productivity, customer service and safety are compromised by well-meaning employees who believe it’s better to show up at half-capacity than to stay at home.

Often, it comes down to corporate culture. Are employees made to feel guilty for missing work, regardless of the reason? Is morale such that they feel their position will be in jeopardy, simply for missing one Tuesday in February when they have a 102° fever? If you’ve told employees you’d rather they stay home and keep their germs to themselves, is this reinforced by management doing the same-or are managers not taking that same advice and sending mixed signals as a result?

If you already have formal sick day policies in place and you’ve communicated that you expect contagious employees to stay home, you may also want to consider these steps:

  • Encourage all departments to cross-train. When employees feel they are “the only one who can do the job,” they’re more likely to come to work regardless of their condition.
  • Use available technology for telecommuting. While this shouldn’t be used with employees who need intense recovery, it’s a great way to fill in gaps when a person is feeling mentally alert and able to contribute, but might remain contagious or have a physical limitation such as a broken leg or back problem.
  • Consider offering roll-over of remaining sick days into the next calendar year. This reduces the likelihood that employees will take frivolous days off and will make days available in the future for more serious illnesses or issues.

And the ultimate deterrent? Any programs that keep employees healthy in the first place–wellness plans, health incentives, screening and even simple flu shots. Proves once again that good health is the best medicine.