Helping clients put an end to presenteeism

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Most advisers know that lost productivity due to presenteeism—the practice of going to work despite an illness, injury or mental health condition—can have serious business consequences for their clients. But how to convince them of that?

Although the concept of presenteeism may seem a bit fuzzy, a recent Global Corporate Challenge report quantifies the consequences more precisely. The GCC study revealed that employees working through health conditions cost businesses the equivalent of three months per year in lost productivity. Specifically, it found that employees took about four sick days off each year. But when those same employees were asked to report the number of days on the job they lost due to low productivity, the number shot up to 57.5 days per employee, per year.

While 57.5 days of an employee reporting for work but not being productive may be shocking, advisers can use that information to help their clients better understand how presenteeism may be hurting their business and what they can do to about it. Here are the most common conditions that employers should watch out for:

Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide and can have a devasting effect on a workforce. Anger and frustration, lack of energy, sleep disturbances, restlessness, excessive worrying and difficulty concentrating are just some of the symptoms that could indicate an employee needs help with depression. Using manager training programs, advisers can help clients spot these symptoms and address depression via employee assistance programs.

Migraines are the sixth-most disabling illness in the world, and nearly one in four U.S. households includes someone who experiences them. The condition often results from different sensory triggers and can be unpredictable. Advisers should alert clients that knowing the triggers and providing simple workplace accommodations can potentially curb migraine onset, helping to boost employee productivity.

In 2017 alone, more than 1.6 million new cases of cancer were reported in the U.S. Given cancer’s prevalence, it’s important teach clients to understand how to provide support for employees. As part of this, appropriate communication, flexible return-to-work arrangements and the support of a disability carrier should all be incorporated into the client’s disability management program.

In 2016, more than 20% of the adults in all 50 states were obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Wellness programs that include weight loss challenges, lunch-and-learns about healthy eating and discounted gym memberships are some of the ways that employers can respond to this health crisis. Biometric health screenings can also be used to help educate employees about the dangers of high blood sugar, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and other obesity-related conditions.

Per the CDC’ National Diabetes Statistics Report, 12.2% of all U.S. adults have diabetes. There are relatively simple ways to accommodate this condition in the workplace. Allowing work breaks, providing a place to rest and store supplies, along with a private location for testing and administering insulin, can help employees be more productive on the job.

As the workforce ages, and remains in place longer, aging-related health conditions may become more apparent in the workplace. Arthritis is one example. Simple accommodations can help, such as an ergonomic keyboard or mouse, a workstation that allows employees to alternate between sitting and standing and a reduction in repetitive tasks.

Presenteeism is not a static state. If a health condition isn’t identified or treated proactively, it may worsen, and the employee may wind up on disability. As advisers should be quick to point out, both the employer and the employee can benefit from the appropriate educational and preventative measures.

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