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'Presenteeism' costs companies four times more than absenteeism

by , 13 February 2013
If you thought employee absenteeism was your company's biggest productivity problem, think again. Studies show that presenteeism - employees coming to work when they're sick - costs companies up to four times more than absenteeism. Here's what you can do to protect your employee's health and safety and solve your company's presenteeism issues.

'Presenteeism is when employees come to work while being sick, when actually they can justify staying at home,' explains the Health and Safety Advisor.
And this can cause your company a far bigger loss of productivity and loss of money than absenteeism does.
The real cost of presenteeism explained
According to statistics released by Discovery Health, 'the cost of absenteeism to South African businesses is estimated at R12 billion a year. When compared to absenteeism, presenteeism is less visible in the workplace and harder to quantify. But, if like Australia, our presenteeism costs four times more than absenteeism, then it could be as much as R48 billion a year,' reports Dr Arien van der Merwe on succeed.co.za.
Employees who come into work when they're feeling under the weather don't function at optimum capacity. That means that the actual cost of presenteeism to your business includes:
  • Lower quality of products or services;
  • The consequences of poor customer service;
  • Greater chance of workplace injuries;
  • Infecting other employees with germs that could lead to sick days being taken; and
  • Repeating a task or taking longer to perform it.
But your employee doesn't have to be sick to be qualified as a presenteeism risk. In fact, 'South Africans who smoke more than a pack of cigarettes a day feel unhealthy for 7.3 out of every 30 days and are costing their employers millions in presenteeism,' the article states. And things like depression or workplace stress can add to your company's productivity problem too.
Five steps you can take to solve company's presenteeism problems
Here are five things you can do to curb employee presenteeism as outlined by the Health and Safety Advisor.
You can discourage your employees from coming to work sick by:
  1. Reviewing your workplace policies. Ensure that there is nothing that might encourage or make employees to feel forced to show up to work when they feel sick or should be on holiday. If possible, offer telecommuting for work at home options should your employee be unwell and feel compelled to work.
  2. Developing a policy on presenteeism, inform and educate all your employees on it – discipline, monitor or dismiss workers who violate the policy because there could be serious health repercussions.
  3. Establishing and communicating sick leave guidelines as to when employees should stay at home and when they should return to work.
  4. Ensuring that facilities are kept clean. Use health posters to educate your employees and prevent the spread of germs. Advocate proper hand-washing techniques and good personal hygiene.
  5. Boosting employee morale – companies with a low morale have more ill employees with a problem of presenteeism.
Up until now, companies have mainly focused on direct healthcare costs and absenteeism. But the 'economic burden of presenteeism on employers, and indeed the economy as a whole, provides a compelling reason for this issue to be at the top of the business agenda,' says van der Merwe.
Get on top of your company's presenteeism issues today and you're sure to have happier, healthier, more productive staff.

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