Reduce Presenteeism Costs with Workplace Health Initiatives July 13th, 2011, by Ken Buckley

Presenteeism is far much more difficult to measure than absenteeism as it’s not always apparent, but its impact on your organisation’s productivity is far more prevalent.

Presenteeism is defined as the lost productivity that occurs due to health conditions when employees turn up to work but, as a consequence of illness or other medical issues, are not fully functioning. It is more prevalent in tough economic times as people are afraid of losing their jobs and will show up at work even when they are sick.

Presenteeism

Previous study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that the on-the-job productivity loss resulting from depression and pain was roughly three times greater than the absence-related productivity loss attributed to these conditions. That is, less time was actually lost from employees staying home than from them turning up to work but not performing at their best.

What is also interesting to notice is that there is a linear relationship in the progression of presenteeism through to long term absence. The results of presenteeism precede employees being absent, then short and long term disability follows over time. Thus the effects of presenteeism exist for months prior to staff members becoming absent.

Closer to home, Australian health insurer Medibank Private reported that presenteeism costed Australian businesses and the economy over $25 billion each year in 2005-2006, with a direct impact on productivity costing a total of $17.6 billion a year. This represents a loss of six working days per employee per year.

Looking at these alarming figures makes it clear that presenteeism represents an issue that employers can’t ignore.

Interestingly, most of the medical problems that result in presenteeism are, by their nature, relatively benign as more serious illnesses would force employees to stay home despite their high work ethic. Most studies on presenteeism consider the impact of medical conditions such as allergies, depression, hypertension, diabetes, asthma, back and neck problems, and migraines/headaches. Other employee lifestyle factors such as poor diet, lack of exercise, lack of sleep or substance abuse have also a great impact on productivity.

Hence the importance and urgency to take preventive measures. However, it’s critical for businesses to identify their own presenteeism costs before deciding on investing in preventive measures such as corporate health programs, or health expos. To do so, the best solution to gather information from your staff on conditions that may cause them suffering from future health problems is a Health Risk Assessment (HRA). This credible evidence-based tool can assist you to cost effectively diagnose your workplace wellness needs, and measure your employee wellness and health.

Once your employees’ wellness risks are identified, invest in an annual workplace health program to address your top five presenteeism-related health risks. Work with a professional corporate health provider, such as Healthworks, that will help customise your workplace health program by analysing the unique profile of your employees wellness, the prevalence of health risk, the overall health status of your workforce and its impact on productivity and your bottom line.

There are a few other approaches you can take to assist your staff to better manage their health and wellbeing and lower your presenteeism rate in the long term:

• Offer Employee Assistance Program – this corporate counselling service help your employees and their immediate family members manage their health and wellness issues.
• Offer a Good Health Day – an extra day of leave for your staff to improve their personal wellbeing.
• Offer flexible work arrangement – Developing a workplace culture that genuinely promotes flexible work arrangements is a key factor in attracting and retaining skilled staff, decreasing presenteeism and absenteeism and boosting productivity
• Provide free flu vaccinations – presenteeism and absenteeism due to influenza costs businesses more than two billion dollars each year. There is no doubt that the influenza virus thrives in the office environment, and each winter one in four of your employees will become infected.

For more information on Workplace Health Initiatives, contact Healthworks on 1300 90 10 90 (International: IDD 61-2-9954-1888 ) and be sure to quote: “post1047” for eligibility of Healthworks latest online offers and Corporate Health initiatives.

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