Sick employees not only present risks to every person in a company, they also deliver a fraction of their normal productivity while in the office and under the weather. Presenteeism, the practice of showing up at work in bad health, costs US businesses billions of dollars every year—a Harvard Business Review study estimates it at about $150 billion. A 2015 news release from Staples, who conducts a flu season survey each year, shows that 53 percent of people surveyed still went to work with the flu. To avoid this waste and keep employees healthy, employers must take action in the workplace.
The Crushing Effects of Presenteeism
Employees who try to tough it out while sick are not doing anyone any favors. While there is no exact science to determining lost productivity, the Harvard Business Review study estimates it to be two to three times more what medical care for sick employees costs—something insurance would cover anyway. Instead of focusing on work, employees feeling subpar are constantly monitoring their health, trying to make themselves presentable for meetings, and working to avoid spreading the illness to coworkers.
Unfortunately for employers, sick employees usually fail on every count. A flu virus can be inside someone and contagious before that person even feels sick and remain a danger for up to seven days. Chances are the flu will spread. Meanwhile, the focus on pain is setting back everyone involved in the department. Just a few delayed reports or the occasional missed meeting will cost the business money. Employees are much better off staying home.
How Employers Can Handle Workplace Sickness
While viruses can spread throughout the year, employers usually see the biggest loss during flu season. Take the time to inform employees of how your company plans to approach the season, beginning with offering flu shots. This small investment (as low as $25 per person) has the potential to save workplaces tens of thousands in lost productivity. Likewise, put into place a strict policy of staying home when sick with the flu.
Here are some other ways to prevent presenteeism and its effect on your business:
Allow "Work from Home" throughout the YearSick employees do not want to make a bad impression at work, which takes them into the office when they should not travel. Think of sickness as anything from seasonal allergies or heartburn to flu viruses. Productivity is much better when an employee suffering even a minor ailment stays home. Give your workforce this option to keep everyone working at a high level.
Circulate Literature about IllnessesMany people spread illnesses without knowing it, so any information you can circulate will help them keep coworkers from coming down with a bug. Ask your health insurance company to provide literature about staying healthy, and post signs reminding people how to wash their hands and contain sneezes.
Upgrade Cleaning PracticesEven when employees are washing their hands regularly and practicing good hygiene, poor cleaning practices in the workplace make them vulnerable to illness. Make sure your cleaning procedures are up to speed, beginning with advanced soil removal systems. If your custodial team is using mops and rags, you are behind the curve.
Sick employees have the potential to shut down your business in every season. Put safeguards in place that keep your staff healthy. Click here to learn about advanced cleaning systems that can help.