Phoning It In: The dIlemma of EmPloyee PresenteeIsm

24 May 2017

What is Employee Presenteeism and What Are the Causes?
Since the passage of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970, the incidences of workplace-related injuries and illnesses in the U.S. have declined by as much at 67 percent. Improved workplace safety practices, combined with widespread access to employer-sponsored healthcare insurance and wellness programs, have contributed to a safer and healthier workforce, and have helped companies increase overall productivity to historically high levels.  As a result, most knowledgeable employers understand the direct link between employee health and their company’s success and profitability, and remain committed to company programs that support employee health and well-being.

In the effort to protect and promote the health and safety of employees, perhaps no issue is potentially more complex and challenging than that of employee “presenteeism.” Generally  defined as a loss of personal productivity resulting from health-related issues, presenteeism can run the gamut, from simple exhaustion on Monday morning following a busy weekend to constant pain and discomfort stemming from a chronic medical condition. In these and similar cases, an employee’s mental or physical attention is partially or completely diverted from their work, resulting in less than full concentration on the task at hand and requiring more time to complete assigned projects and fulfill other responsibilities.For employers, the impact of employee presenteeism can be just as costly as a physical injury in the workplace. Indeed, lost productivity due to presenteeism and its consequences can represent a significant hidden cost to employers.

Yet, many employers see employee presenteeism as simply a cost of doing business, instead of developing or implementing programs that could effectively reduce presenteeism in the workplace. Indeed, when integrated with other workplace health and safety programs, efforts to reduce the incidence of presenteeism can actually drive dramatic improvements in the overall economic performance of an organization while also contributing to the health and well-being of employees.

Summary and Conclusion
Employee presenteeism attributable to underlying health-related issues has been an oft-overlooked but nonetheless important factor in reduced rates of employee productivity and increased costs of employer-sponsored healthcare benefits. Yet, pervasive approaches to employee health and safety often fail to adequately address the underlying root causes of employee presenteeism, contributing to the continuing increase in healthcare cost paid by both employers and employees. Companies that have taken an integrated approach to employee health and safety have seen important reductions in the incidence of employee presenteeism and absenteeism, as well as material increases in employee productivity. These successes have resulted in healthier employees, improved financial performance, and an increased competitive advantage against comparable businesses. ©

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