The Hidden Costs of Presenteeism

Nowadays, absenteeism is no longer the culprit in the workplace. Presenteeism may be costing employers more than absenteeism, that is in terms of employee productivity and loss of employer dollars.

Presenteeism is defined as the practice among workers who report to work when ill and are therefore unable to perform and operate in their usual level of productivity. People still going to work even though they are sick are most likely to infect others, especially their coworkers or much worse, their customers or clients. Employees coming to work sick with common illnesses, such as allergies, headaches, colds and flu, may cost the company millions of dollars of losses every year.

Some changes in today’s workplace may have contributed to the growing incidence of presenteeism. There is a “leaner and meaner” characteristic in most workplace, where some employees drag themselves to work despite feeling sick.

This is because they fear that reporting sick could be an indication of the following unwanted situations: they may appear less attached to their jobs, they will receive disciplinary action, or they may lose their jobs. They expect that taking a day or more off would lead to burdening their coworkers with their job responsibilities, missing deadlines at work, or returning to a heavy backlog of work duties.

One way to address these is for the employers to develop a workplace policy about presenteeism that could better inform and educate workers. Establishing and communicating such guidelines would help employees realize under what conditions they should stay home and when it is okay to report for work. Sick employees are to be discouraged from going to work, or are given options to work from home by telecommunication whenever they don’t feel well.

Majority of private companies offer little or no paid sick days. Thus a great number of workers still report to work when ill just so to avoid loss of earnings. Paid sick leaves should be made accessible to employees to prevent sick workers from coming to work and reduce the spread of disease in the workplace. Employers could also provide medical plans and pay for measures that can either prevent common ailments or reduce present symptoms. Covering such medical plans is a clear cost-effective measure that benefits both employer and employee.

An employee that comes to work feeling sicker than ever is no longer tantamount to that of a valued and dedicated worker. There is a need for employers to foster a healthy workplace with highly functioning workers. Making a simple effort to boost the morality of workers would go a long way, in terms of minimizing the impacts of presenteeism. There is a chance that companies with a higher level of morale would present less ill workers showing up at work. Disciplinary actions, especially those that pertain to absenteeism or absent control, should also be reconsidered.

The consequences of such programs may pressure sick workers to report to work, which unknowingly encourages presenteeism. The costs of presenteeism in the workplace are escalated during such conditions and may bring adverse effects to a company’s financial state. That is why it is important for such acts of presenteeism to be immediately recognized and addressed by the employer.

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