Proactively addressing employee wellness as a way to promote better quality of life for employees and minimize future impacts on productivity is finally getting the attention it deserves. Whether it’s implementing wellness programs, working with your EAP provider or offering annual health screenings — workplace wellness strategies are hot topics. And, these conversations show no signs of slowing in 2016.
But what about employees who are battling health issues now? How can you help those employees increase their quality of life while protecting and improving workplace productivity?
Presenteeism — a prime productivity challenge
One answer is taking a head-on approach to addressing presenteeism, the practice of coming to work while experiencing a medical condition, whether physical or mental. It’s a critical, though often under-recognized, productivity challenge employers face.
When employees aren’t feeling their best, they can’t do their best. Think back to a day when you’ve come into work while battling a bad cold or a day when you’ve skipped lunch and were so hungry you couldn’t concentrate. Now imagine that instead of hunger, you felt pain or anxiety. Continuously working that way is taxing for both employees and employers. Even worse, failure to address ongoing medical challenges can cause those conditions to manifest into more serious problems that require time off work to treat.
An unlikely solution
The good news is your disability carrier might offer assistance to help employees work through health challenges without going on leave. These programs, such as the Workplace Possibilities℠ program, aim to keep employees who are able on the job while also curbing costs and enhancing productivity. They also work in-tandem with the other employee health-related resources an employer already has in place, including employee assistance, disease management and wellness programs.
For example, our Workplace Possibilities program was able to keep a customer service representative, who was battling back pain and a gastrointestinal (GI) condition, on the job. The program offered a holistic approach to better address the employee’s needs and improve her productivity:
- A nurse consultant was able to connect the employee with resources to identify a more effective treatment plan for her GI issue.
- The employee received ergonomic training and workstation adjustments to address her back pain.
- The employer modified the employee’s responsibilities so she could continue delivering great work while giving her GI condition the attention it demands.
A better outcome for the employer and employee
It’s success stories such as these that illustrate why addressing presenteeism is so powerful. This woman has a much higher quality of life now than before. She was able to alleviate her back pain and better control a medical condition that had plagued her throughout her life without having to bear the financial hardship of missing work. Her employer was able to avoid the burden of an employee medical leave, while also bettering her health and overall productivity.
So, amidst all the excitement around proactive employee wellness initiatives, don’t lose sight of presenteeism and the important benefits taking steps to counteract this practice have for both your company and its employees.