Presenteeism Can Cost You

F.J. Thomas

Sarasota, FL ( – If your employees are coming to work sick, it might be costing more than you know. According to a recent article from Safety and Health Magazine,presenteeism has far reaching effects on the workplace.

The term, “presenteeism” is when an employee attends work despite being ill or having a work-affecting injury. It can also be any situation in which an employee can not fully focus on the job at hand. The term “Presenteeism” was originally coined in the ‘90s by psychologist Professor Cary Cooper who specialized in organizational management at Manchester University in the United Kingdom.

The article references information from the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health(IOSH) and states there are several negative effects of presenteeism aside from reduced focus on the task at hand:

  • Stress and mental health issues
  • Longer recovery time
  • Impact on personal life
  • Infection of co-workers

Apparently, the U.K. is taking the topic presenteeism and potential psychological side effects seriously. In December, the U.K. adopted a new employment reform call the Good Work Plan to address that issue that came to light after a workplace survey. The survey revealed that workers were commonly working sick or without breaks due to reduced benefits or pressures in the workplace.

Aside from the mental side effects of presenteeism, there is also an economic side effect as well. In another 2018 study from the NCBI, the economic burden resulting from presenteeism was higher than medical expenses, and presenteeism was more costly than absenteeism. The average absenteeism cost was $520 per employee, however the presenteeism cost was $3,055. In comparison, medical and pharmaceutical expenses were only $1165. You can read the full study on the NCBI website.

Safety and Health Magazine suggests there are several things employers can do to make sure their employees show up to work able to focus and work at their best.

  • Establish paid sick leave of five or six days as statistics show employees take an average of 5.2 sick days a year.
  • Offer flexible work arrangements. Letting an employees have a say in when and how they work results in better work life balance and a partnership between employee and employer.
  • Encouraging breaks. Taking more breaks means less burnout.
  • Cross-train employees. If an employee has a replacement, they will feel less pressure to work while sick.

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