Part 4: Costs and impact of arthritis-related presenteeism

A significant number of employees experience presenteeism as a result of arthritis. The disorder can affect people of all ages, and can create limitations on the work an employee can perform. To help manage presenteeism related to arthritis, below I share the cost, impact and solutions for this common medical issue.

Before I dig deeper in today’s post, here is a brief recap of past presenteeism topics:

There are more than 100 types of arthritis.1 Many of us develop osteoarthritis as we age. Joints become less mobile, and we may experience pain as a result. The multigenerational workforce, which I’ve blogged about in the past, now has a high concentration of baby boomers. Consequently, the workforce is experiencing more age-related medical issues than in years past, and arthritis is one of the most common ailments. By 2030, 67 million adults are expected to be affected by it.2

The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) has determined that arthritis is the No. 1 cause of disability in the United States, with women being affected more than men.3 Additionally, JAN estimates 40 million people in the U.S. have arthritis, and this condition affects one in seven individuals.3

In many cases, those of us experiencing arthritis do not take time off work or file for disability claims — we live and work with it. Without intervention, leaves of absence and disability claims may increase.

  • A study of rheumatoid arthritis reported presenteeism in six dimensions for 1,049 employees with this disorder. Over a 14-day reporting period, the study shows:4
    • 43.23% reported problems with concentration at work
    • 56.77% reported problems with the pace of work
    • 47.59% reported that their condition caused delays in work progress
    • 36.26% reported to be less able to take over colleagues’ work

What can be done?
You can work with a disability management provider who can conduct ergonomic assessments that will inform appropriate job accommodations and likely reduce this issue. For example, the following tools could be provided for employees with arthritis:

  • Speech recognition software for an employee with arthritic fingers
  • A scooter for a foreman who has arthritis in his knees and must travel long distances inside a factory
  • A sit/stand workstation with an adjustable-height desk for an employee with spinal arthritis who must work at a computer for long periods of time
  • Push-pad-activated power door for an employee having trouble repeatedly opening doors due to shoulder arthritis

Ultimately, employers must come to realize that keeping employees working at full capacity is a strategic and cost-beneficial approach. Presenteeism is a major but often hidden cost, and employers are well- advised to offer job accommodations to keep productivity at optimal levels.

1PubMed Health. Arthritis: Joint inflammation. Available at: Accessed August 23, 2012.

2Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Arthritis: The Nation’s Most Common Cause of Disability. Available at: Accessed August 23, 2012.

3Job Accommodation Network: Searchable Online Accommodation Resource. Available at: Accessed August 23, 2012.

4Sфgaard, R, Sфrensen J, Linde L, Hetland ML. The significance of presenteeism for the value of lost production: the case of rheumatoid arthritis. Clinicoecon Outcomes Res. 2010; 2:105-112.

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