It’s when employees come to work but aren’t fully productive
Mary is at her desk working on a financial report, but she’s having trouble focusing on her project. That morning she experienced an asthma attack, which left her feeling exhausted, irritable and nauseated, a side effect from her inhaler medication. With her deadline looming, she notices an error in her calculations. Although she’s feeling poorly, she decides to tough it out but fails to make much progress the entire day.
This is an example of presenteeism, the buzzword commonly used to describe employees who come to work but aren’t fully productive. Presenteeism is not a new problem for employers and appears to be getting worse according to a 2004 study by the Cornell University Institute for Health and Productivity and the health information company Medstat. Productivity losses for businesses were estimated to be on average $225 per employee, per year, and account for as much as 60% of the total cost of worker illness, exceeding the costs of absenteeism and medical and disability benefits, the study found.
To help their clients reap the benefits of “total health and productivity” management, as it is now commonly known, brokers must be prepared to extend their expertise and knowledge into areas that may appear more nebulous in nature but are just as influential when it comes to reducing lost time and improving costs. By understanding the entire spectrum of factors that minimize productivity, including presenteeism to a large degree, brokers can differentiate themselves better and add value to their services.
Presenteeism is often the result of an illness, such as migraine headaches, asthma, allergies or back pain, or can be caused by side effects, such as drowsiness, nausea or dizziness, from medications used to treat those conditions. However, there are a myriad of other non-medical circumstances, such as financial or legal issues, family problems and stress, for example, that can also diminish an employee’s ability to work productively.
Brokers whose customers are looking for ways to increase productivity and reduce overall health and lost time costs should advise their clients to consider the effects of presenteeism as part of an overall health and productivity program. Many health and disability plans offer a number of products or services that directly or indirectly address presenteeism but are highly underused by most employers. Rather than purchase new costly programs, employers can maximize the benefits of these and other existing programs to help keep workers healthy and fully productive.
Among the options available to help minimize the impact of presenteeism are Employee Assistance Programs.
Depression has a profound impact on an employee’s ability to work and be productive. According to a report in the June 2003 Journal of the American Medical Association, depressed workers lose about 5.6 hours of productive time on the job each week compared with an average of 1.5 hours for non-depressed workers. EAPs have proven to be beneficial in helping employees deal with a variety of mental or nervous issues that diminish their ability to concentrate or be productive at work. EAPs also help employers save money. According to studies by the U.S. Department of Labor, $5 to $16 in health care costs can be saved for every $1 invested in an Employee Assistance Program.
Workplace accommodations also can be a factor in dwindling productivity.