Flu season is upon us and we wanted to take the time to talk about employee presenteeism. Whether it’s because you have a strict attendance policy, or because your employees do not want to neglect their duties or offload them onto someone else, sometimes people show up sick to work. The total cost of presenteeism to US employers has been increasing, and estimates for current losses range from about $150 to $250 billion annually. Presenteeism also accounts for 60% of the total cost of worker illness.

When an employee shows up to work with something like the flu, it’s apparent to everyone in the office that he isn’t exactly productive. It can take as little as two hours for someone with stomach flu to contaminate half your office. That’s a lot of workers down. It’s really best that your employee stay at home.

Antibacterial wipes and hand sanitiser, provided amply around the office, can of course mitigate contagion. But it’s also important for you as an employer to let your employees know where you stand on taking contagious illness to work. Offer a flu vaccine program. Also realize that if you discipline an absentee employee, you’re encouraging presenteeism. Let your employees know that you’d rather them stay home than infect half the office (it adversely affects your bottom line, after all). It’s also often cheaper to offer paid time off than to deal with a flu-ridden office. The National Partnership for Women & Families states that if employees were provided seven paid sick days a year, our national economy would experience $8.2 billion in net savings.

But presenteeism isn’t just about seasonal illness.

Because most people are likely to stay home when they have a serious illness, research on presenteeism focuses on chronic illness like allergies, migraines, back pain and arthritis. If your employee is coming into work trying to get his mind off chronic back pain, he’s automatically not as productive as he wants to be. The Harvard Business Review suggests that presenteeism can cut productivity by one-third or more. Encourage your employees to have a doctor look at their illnesses, even if they seem benign.

Sherpaa Doctors manage chronic illness for our clients every day. Let your employees know that all they need to do is send a quick message about their symptoms, and our doctors will take care of the rest.

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