Do your employees come to work when they are sick?

Business Know How defines Presenteeism as the practice of employees reporting to work when ill and not operating at their usual level of productivity. An estimate of the cost of presenteeism to U.S. Employers ranges from $150-250 Billion annually which is about 60% of the total cost of worker illness. A study by the Harvard Business Review looked at Lockheed Martin and found that 28 conditions where people came to work and were not well cost the company approximately $34 Million Annually. The chart below from the report shows the amount of lost revenue based on condition. (Hemp, 2004)

Condition Prevalence Average productivity loss Aggregate annual loss
Migraine 12.0 % 4.9 % $434,385
Arthritis 19.7 5.9 865,530
Chronic lower-back pain (without leg pain) 21.3 5.5 858,825
Allergies or sinus trouble 59.8 4.1 1,809,945
Asthma 6.8 5.2 259,740
GERD (acid reflux disease) 15.2 5.2 582,660
Dermatitis or other skin condition 16.1 5.2 610,740
Flu in the past two weeks 17.5 4.7 607,005
Depression 13.9 7.6 786,600

Source: Debra Lerner, William H. Rogers, and Hong Chang, at Tufts-New England Medical Center

When employees come to work with these conditions, they are not working at 100% and are therefore costing your company money. They could also be coming to work while contagious therefore infecting other workers causing absenteeism rates to increase dramatically. Any way you look at it, presenteeism is a big factor in lost revenue for the company. Are there appropriate ways to deal with presenteeism? Awareness of the problems and knowing your employees are the first steps but having a method to make sure that employees are properly diagnosed when sick plays a large part in combating the problem of presenteeism.

An on-site primary care clinic provides employees a place to go when they do not feel right and get diagnosed by a physician without having to pay a co-pay. The lack of out of pocket expense takes away a barrier that stands between employees and proper treatment plus it provides ease of access to a physician. When employees know what is wrong and the proper way to treat an ailment, they can get healthy and therefore more productive on the job. On the other hand if employees do not feel right but hesitate to go to a doctor due to cost or difficulty of access, they can get sicker or less productive. The on-site clinic also allows employees to quickly get checked and get back on the job (average appointment times range from 20-30 minutes) as opposed to going to the retail market and sitting in a waiting room for 1-2 hours. The ease of access and quality treatment put together make for a more productive use of company resources and healthier employees.