Presenteeism costs employers more than absenteeism, researchers say
In a recent study by Kalorama Information, a health care market research firm, researchers found that presenteeism costs are one of many factors driving usage of wellness programs.
"Presenteeism is worse than a high absenteeism rate for two reasons," said Bruce Carlson, publisher at Kalorama Information. "Sick employees can spread contagious disease to other employees and multiply productivity loss. And they can make mistakes when they are not at the top of their game."
Researchers estimated that costs due to sick workers going to the office is more than double the cost of the 425 million sick days taken in 2008 -- an estimated $60 billion in lost productivity. The report noted multiple reasons for presenteeism, including lack of time to see a physician, avoidance of co-pays and other medical costs, and loss of income.
In a time of economic recession, researchers said it is often the case that companies do not have backups for critical tasks, which can contribute to the problem. Carlson said communicating sick day policies and cross-training employees can help to mitigate the trend.
"Employers are well-advised to tell employees not to come in if they are sick and encourage the behavior with policies," he said. "At least with a sick day, the costs stop there."
Due to this trend and rising health-related costs, Carlson said many employers have been engaging in wellness programs for their employees. These programs can involve hands-on instruction in a class-like setting or they may be much less structured, involving occasional meetings with health care professionals. Employers commonly offer incentives to participate in programs, such as gym and fitness memberships. In 2008, approximately 42 million workers in the U.S. participated in a corporate wellness program. Carlson said he expects that number to rise, given that on average, most wellness programs are estimated to save their sponsors about $3 for every $1 spent.
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October 22, 2009
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