Presenteeism: the hidden productivity cost that might be affecting your company

When an employee takes a sick day, it can affect a company’s bottom line. According to the Conference Board of Canada, employee absenteeism cost Canadian companies $16.6 billion. However, what business managers and owners might not realize is that presenteeism—working through an illness whether psychological or physical—can be far more detrimental. 

How presenteeism hinders productivity 

While employees might be physically present at the office, the quality and quantity of their work usually suffers. Employees might work slower, make more mistakes, or need to repeat tasks. They might fall behind on assignments, forget to complete important jobs, and become irritable with other co-workers, disturbing a once productive team environment. In fact, some experts figure the lost productivity from presenteeism is at least three times higher than from absenteeism.

So why do so many still show up to work when feeling ill? They fear the repercussions—how the disclosure of a diagnosis or illness could impact their job security or how they will be able to cover monthly expenses if they are not being paid for their sick days. 

The added stress of no sick day benefits

Other studies have shown that when organizations do not offer employees sick days or do not encourage them to use their sick days, this only compounds the issue. By not taking time off to recoup, workers won’t have the mental and physical downtime needed to speed up recovery. 

More so, in a 2018 report by the Journal of Social Services Research, researchers said that workers without paid sick leave reported higher levels of psychological distress. Employees without sick leave were 1.59 times more likely to be worried about normal monthly bills and were 1.55 times more likely to be worried about paying their housing costs as compared to workers with paid sick leave.

With the added stress and worry, these employees are prone to prolonged illness and depression, which can eventually lead to absenteeism and short-term disability. In a Benefits Canada article, Lindsay Daw, Disability Manager at Niagara Casino explained just how much absenteeism costs the organization, “Disability absences account for five per cent of our payroll, not including indirect costs such as loss of administration and productivity.”

Minimizing the costs of presenteeism and absenteeism

Ultimately, the healthier and well-balanced your team is, the more productive they will be. So here are a few ways you can support them in leading a health-conscious life both at home and work:  

Paid sick days: Offer sick days as part of your benefit offering and encourage employees to use them when necessary. 

Employee Assistance Programs: Provide services that assist employees who are dealing with mental illness, stress or familial and financial troubles. Read more here: https://www.benefitdeck.com/services/employee-assistance-program-implementations/

Integrated wellness plans: Work with your trusted employee benefits consultant to put together an integrated plan that includes varying incentives geared towards wellness, work-life balance and support resources. 

Keep in mind—every organization is unique, so there’s no one fix or recommendation that will work for everyone. If your company is looking for solutions to counteract presenteeism and absenteeism, our team is available to help. We’ll assess your current employee benefits and wellness offering, discuss the issues your company might be facing and propose solutions that best suit your needs and budget. Whenever you’re ready, we’re one phone call away. 

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