How Presenteeism Threatens Your Company’s Productivity

How Presenteeism Threatens Your Company’s Productivity

Part #1 in a series of three: Presenteeism, Absenteeism, Resiliency

Presenteeism. This happens every day in most workplaces. Employees come to work sick, because they have a medical condition, or they are facing a deadline, or because they get limited sick days, or because they fear losing their jobs. On top of the problem that they might pass on their illness (if it is a cold or a flu) to their colleagues, there is an even bigger problem with “Presenteeism” for companies.

Loss of Productivity

To put it bluntly, sick employees don’t perform as well as they do when they are not sick. The company is paying for productive employees who are not functioning efficiently. They might be struggling to stay focused on their work, taking long breaks, staring into space, or chatting with colleagues. Their bodies are present, but their minds are not. The work that they could and should be addressing is not getting done at all, or not as efficiently or correctly because they are not well.

Ultimately, this means that the company is losing money, although the actual calculation of what that loss might be is extremely challenging to calculate. Researchers are more focused on measuring the corporate losses from Absenteeism which is easier to track. Even so, only 46% of employers in Canada track absenteeism. The effects of presenteeism are something of a mystery. For most employers, they are unobserved, untracked, yet they are an invisible threat to the company’s bottom line.
One report found that the majority of Canadian workers are more aware of presenteeism than their employers. This is because the employers are more focused on the costs associated with absenteeism.

Paid Sick Days

While there are many reasons for presenteeism, one of the most significant ones is the number of sick days employees can use. Particularly now with high inflation and higher interest rates, employees are more anxious about their finances, and much more conscious of avoiding having pay docked for exceeding their paid sick days limit. On top of that, financial stress is highly detrimental to physical and mental health. Employers should recognize that the cost of increasing sick leave benefits is probably lower than the costs incurred when employees come to work sick, perform poorly, pass their illness on to others, or wrestle with excessive financial stress.

Addressing Presenteeism

1. Increase Paid Sick Leave Benefits
Expanding sick leave benefits is catching on. The Federal government recently passed a law which requires 10 permanent paid sick days per year for workers in federally regulated industries. British Columbia’s law grants most workers in BC an annual allotment of 5 sick days. Other provinces are discussing paid leave laws. Despite an ongoing debate about whether employers or governments should pay for paid leave, there is growing consensus that expanding paid leave benefits the workers, public health, and employers.

2. “Recover at Home” Messaging
The message to “Stay at home if you’re sick” was loud and clear during COVID. But it still needs to be reinforced in the workplace. There should be multiple ways in which this message “Recover at Home” continues to be reinforced in your company. Employees cost their employer less when they recover at home. This is because they aren’t at work where they can spread illness to colleagues, and they are not at the office producing substandard work that others will need to correct.

3. “Get the help you need” Messaging
However, for employees who are suffering from chronic illness, depression, or severe stress, the “Recover at Home” message does not resonate. A different message for mental illness and stress related presenteeism should be along the lines of getting the help they need rather than “toughing it out and burning out.”

4. Paid screening for common health problems
Your company could provide screening programs for diabetes, blood pressure or even cancer to help employees identify health issues before they become serious.

5. Provide Occupational support programs
If you have employees with chronic health conditions, their productivity and mindset can be improved with support for those conditions at work.

6. More flexibility in work options
Working parents can benefit from reduced stress with work-from-home or part-time solutions, particularly if childcare is an issue or if their children are sick.
There is no question that for employers, providing effective wellness programs and seeking practical, effective ways to address mental health and chronic stress in the workforce will help reduce presenteeism.

In Canada, several research projects are under way to quantify the corporate ROI and human value of workplace wellness programs. These studies will likely shed light on the impact of presenteeism on company bottom lines as well.

At Health Risk Services, we help managers of benefits plans make strategic decisions to craft cost-effective personalized plans that can assist you and your organization to address the “Presenteeism” challenge. Whether the solution of preference for your company is adding additional support programs, renovating your existing coverage, or crafting intentional messaging, Health Risk is here to help!

To schedule your Complimentary Consultation with Health Risk Services, please call 403-236-9430 OR email: [email protected]