Last Updated: Jan 18, 2018
Presenteeism – employees who come to work sick, or suffering other conditions that prevent them from working productively – may be costing you more than absenteeism. Here are causes and solutions for presenteeism.

It’s no secret that absenteeism is a major expense for small business. In fact, according to the The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), productivity losses linked to absenteeism cost employers $225.8 billion annually in the United States, or $1,685 per employee.

But as high as those numbers are, presenteeism may be a greater expense for businesses. Workers who are present but not working up to capacity due to illness or other health factors cost US businesses billions of dollars more every year.  A survey Virgin Pulse Global Challenge, for instance, shows employees in their study averaged 4 sick days a year, but indicated that the time they lost while on the job (ie, being present by not working productively) added up to a staggering 57.5 days per year per employee

In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, presenteeism was coined to define the practice of workers reporting to work when ill, overly fatigued, or for other reasons not operating to their usual level of productivity.  

In addition to not being effective at their own job, people who come to work when sick are also likely to infect others; namely, coworkers and possibly customers or clients. In occupations such as nursing, and industries such as food service, an infected employee who comes to work ill can spell disaster — compromising food safety, and infecting and sickening the public, to name a few.

RELATED: How to Handle Employees Who Are Chronically Late or Absent

In 2004, the Harvard Business Review reported on a study conducted by researchers at Tufts-New England Center in Boston. The study assessed the impact of twenty-eight conditions on workers’ productivity at Lockheed Martin Corp. The findings showed that employees who came to work sick that year — with ailments such as allergies, headaches, lower-back pain, arthritis, colds and the flu — set the company back about $34 million. Allergies and trouble led the pack with the highest losses to the company of $1.8 million.

There are many reasons for presenteeism in the workplace. Among them:

The image of an employee who comes to work sick-as-a-dog as a dedicated and valued worker is no longer apropos. Presenteeism costs are a real and potentially significant drain on a company’s financial well-being. Employers need to make a concerted effort to develop a workplace with healthy and highly functioning workers. This will go a long way toward meeting goals for company productivity and profits, and fostering a healthy work culture and environment for employees.

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