Cold and flu season is in full swing and boxes of Kleenex and vitamin C are flying off the shelves. While popping Echinacea, drinking dandelion tea and eating whole cloves of garlic might help, chances are everyone will feel a little under the weather at some point this year. When you do get sick, I think we can all agree on the best cure. Rest. But what about work?
Take a sick day! We know that some workplaces can view sick days as a bit of a taboo and they aren't always taken seriously. So employees often work while sick, not because they don't believe that rest and relaxation will help them get well but because they fear the repercussions. Well, guess what? The repercussions of working while ill are even worse than not working at all.
Presenteeism is the act of being present at work even though you know you should be at home. It is estimated that presenteeism costs Canadian employers between $15 to $25 billion dollars a year, and that number has been climbing. A recent study by Stats Canada found that lost productivity from presenteeism was at least 7.5 times greater than absenteeism!
The Cost of Not Taking Sick Days
By working while sick, employees expose their workplace to a myriad of factors that negatively impact the productivity of the entire team. These include:
- Exposing others to the same illness. This is the exact reason why doctors, nurses and teachers almost never go to work while sick.
- Sick workers generally do not perform at their normal levels. This can lead to lower quality of work, decreased productivity, poor customer service and even potential safety hazards. You don't want someone who is on a diet of chicken soup and DayQuil running your fork lift.
- Remaining sick for a longer period of time due to insufficient rest. By staying sick longer, these negative workplace side effects linger.
- The added stress of working while sick. If an employee goes to work while sick it is usually due to some sort of stress (no sick days left, recent layoffs, no other employees who are trained to cover their responsibilities etc.) This added stress can lower morale, create resentment and even lead to more health issues.
How to Limit Presenteeism
First, take sick days seriously! Presenteeism not only costs business money but can erode the workplace culture as well. By communicating a clear sick day protocol, you can empower your employees to act in the organizations best interest.
Start by reviewing your workplace policies. Make sure there are no organizational reasons why a sick employee would feel pressure to come to work and remove those barriers. Provide them with paid sick days and educate them on the importance of using them when necessary. Offer telecommuting options when possible and when not, make sure that the appropriate cross-training has been provided so another team member can help cover the sick employees duties.
Making a strong effort to foster a healthy, happy and fully-functioning team will go a long way in decreasing presenteeism, while also increasing productivity and profits. So if you take productivity and profits seriously, you better take sick days seriously too.