How Presenteeism Can Affect Your Bottom Line

Female clerk having sinus pain

This year’s flu season is reaching near pandemic levels. The number of patients receiving care for flu-like symptoms shows a trend that is eerily similar to the data from the peak of the 2009 Swine Flu Pandemic. Many are quick to blame this year’s vaccine and call it ineffective. While there is no single factor that causes such an outbreak, there is one critical contributing factor that is often underestimated: presenteeism.

What is presenteeism?

“Presenteeism” is the term used to describe employee attendance despite illness. American workers fight through these symptoms for a number of reasons:

  • Some workers do not receive paid time off or have exhausted leave and cannot afford a dip in wages.
  • Other workers who have access to paid leave are so committed to their work that they simply do not want to stay home.
  • Some employees feel so overwhelmed with job duties, they simply dread the backlog of work upon returning to work after an absence.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 45 million workers don’t have access to paid sick leave. Unfortunately, access to paid time off tends to be associated with higher pay jobs. Thus, the problem compounds, because lower wage earners cannot afford to stay home. Looking back at data from the 2009 Swine Flu season, researchers now know that about 8 million American workers went to work while sick with the flu. These workers infected an additional 7 million people. To take this a step further, another study compared flu trends to sick leave policies and concluded that sick leave, whether paid or unpaid, decrease the rate of flu-related illness by 6%.

Live well, work well

The conclusion is straightforward: sick people in the workplace are ultimately counterproductive to your bottom line. Encourage sick employees to stay home and not return until 24 hours after their fevers subside. Review your leave policies to determine if they are effective. Monitor time off throughout the year so the employees have not some leave allotted for unexpected events.

Live well, work well and keep your employees and yourself healthy in the workplace. If you have questions about time off policies or are interested in ways to better manage your current policy, let SIA Group help!