Working sick employee cost companies as much as $43,000 for small organizations and $1 million for larger companies.

So, when you are sick, stay at home. If you still come to work, here is what will happen:

  • You will prolong your illness because you did not get enough rest to recover
  • You will infect other colleagues and disrupt their workday
  • You will be less effective and productive due to less than optimum condition.

This condition is term as “presenteeism”. It is when you feel that you must show up for work even if you are too sick, stressed or distracted to be productive.

It is a persistent problem that cost the company money. It cost the US businesses $150-$250 billion a year in total.

In 2004, the Harvard Business Review reported on a study conducted by researchers at Tufts-New England Medical Center in Boston. The study assessed 28 medical conditions on worker’s productivity at Lockheed Martin Corp and found that employees who came to work sick with ailments such as headaches, lower back pain, arthritis, colds and flu set the company back by $34 million.

Similarly, in 2004 a study by Medstat and Cornell Institute of Health & Productivity found the average cost of presenteeism to be $ 255 per employee per year. The lost of productivity is 60% of the total cost of worker illness. The costliest condition for employees are hypertension ($392), heart disease ($368) and mental health ($348).

Reasons for reporting to work sick:

Lower paid workers have little paid sick days and need to be present at work in order to have the income.

Corporate downsizing to a leaner work place lead to more job responsibilities.   They are also concerned that fellow colleagues will not be able to cover him or may receive disciplinary actions. Workers are concerned about appearing to be less committed and over job security.

What employer can do?

1) Recognized the problem

Presenteeism is often un-recognized by employer and may not realized the extend of loss it can cause to the business. A business that ignores the problem will adversely affect its bottom line.

2) Rethink the use of disciplinary action to control absenteeism

Employer that rely on disciplinary action to control absenteeism and abuse of sick leave are unknowingly encouraging presenteeism by pressurizing sick employee to report to work.

3) Develop a workplace policy on presenteeism

Inform and educate employees with clear guidelines on where the company stands. Help employee to understand when it is ok to stay at home or come to work.

Educate the employee on hygiene and how to avoid spreading gems.

In workplace where the employees are in direct contact with public and public protection is essential, disciplinary actions are critical control.

4) Develop a healthy workplace environment and culture

Pay for employee flu vaccination to lower the incidence of catching flu. Target lifestyle and disease management program to help employees achieve better health and immunity.

5) Boost employee morale

Provide some degree of flexibility in work arrangement. Give employees the option to work from home when they are sick. Help employees meet pressing demand of both work and family to achieve healthy work-life balance.

Employers and human resource manager take note of these recommendations . It will go a long way towards meeting company productivity and profits.

Are you one of those working sick?

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