Part Two: Presenteeism and the bottom line

staff meeting

As I mentioned in my first post, “Part One: Understanding Presenteeism,” getting a handle on the hidden costs of presenteeism, such as costs associated with lost productivity, continues to challenge employers for many reasons.

The first step to finding a solution is to take a closer look at how and where presenteeism is financially affecting the organization. That way, you can begin to measure the impact it has on your company’s bottom line and determine the appropriate course of action.

A lot of progress has been made in regard to understanding this workplace issue. Below are some examples of the many costs of presenteeism and how they are likely influencing your organization:

  • Lost productivity costs can be very expensive and challenging to measure. The annual lost productivity of employees working while sick is valued at $160 billion, according to a report published by Kalorama Information.[1]
  • Presenteeism accounts for 60 percent of the total cost of employee illness. This exceeds what companies are spending on medical, disability-related leaves and absenteeism.[2]
  • American businesses lose 1,255 days/100 full-time equivalents to presenteeism for employees with two or more chronic health conditions.[3]

Although research and studies arrive at somewhat different conclusions, all agree presenteeism can be a very costly issue in many different ways. And for this reason, it’s important for employers to utilize existing benefits, or look into maximizing benefits with programs or services that help prevent or reduce the impact this issue has on employees and the workplace.

The Standard’s Workplace Possibilities program is an expertly designed and unique disability management program that places a nurse or vocational specialist in the workplace. This on-site consultant helps direct employees suffering from physical and medical conditions to the employer’s appropriate benefit programs. As of yet, there is little research on techniques to reduce presenteeism in the workplace, but helping employees who are at work and struggling with a medical condition is a good place to start.

Here are a few ways employers can begin to reduce some of these costs:

  • Recognize the cause of the problem. The on-site consultant can help you to recognize and better understand the causes of the problem. What issues do employees seem to be dealing with the most? Is it stress, anxiety or depression? Then, what can you do to help remove some of the stressors or barriers?It’s important that employers make health benefit offerings and resources easily attainable for employees, and encourage usage whenever possible and appropriate.
  • Reinforce your employee assistance program. EAPs are a great resource for individuals dealing with a variety of concerns, from relationship problems to mental health issues. The on-site consultant will connect your employees directly to the EAP.
  • Consider job modifications. Employees at work or absent due to medical conditions can often be assisted to stay or return-to-work by modifying their jobs. These modifications can take the form of:
    • Changes to duties
    • Changes to work location
    • Changes to hours of work
    • Physical modifications to the work station through ergonomic evaluation and subsequent provision of the appropriate ergonomic devices.

    The Workplace Possibilities on-site consultant is qualified and able to assist employers and employees with these services with the goal of reducing the impact of the medical conditions. If their impact is in fact reduced, this should then reduce the cost and impact of presenteeism.

  • Join together wellness and disability management efforts. It’s true when they say “two is better than one!”Encourage the key benefits stakeholders responsible for ensuring employee health, wellness and productivity to work in tandem to produce stronger, more positive and rewarding results for the company, as well as existing and future employees. It can be a win-win situation for the employer and the employee. Essentially, this combination works so well because you can focus on improving physical and mental health and wellness, and also prevent and reduce some of the leading causes of disability-related leaves as a result of mental or physical health problems.

Presenteeism issues don’t have to be a financial threat to your company. With the right benefits, programs and people in place on-site working together to improve employee health and productivity, employers can lessen the negative impact it has on the bottom line and their employees.

[1] Kalorama Information. (2009, September) Presenteeism Costing Employers More Than Absenteeism, According to Report. Copyright 2011.

[2] Lang S. (2004, Vol. 35, No. 32, April 22) Economists Coin New Word, “Presenteeism” to Describe Worker Slowdowns That Account for Up to 60 percent of Employer Health Costs, Cornell Chronicle, Cornell University Press.

[3] Parry T. (2008, August), Diseases vs. Populations, The Impact of Chronic Conditions, IBI Research Insights

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