Do you know what presenteeism is?
Not only do you have an idea of what it is, but can you spout off a detailed definition?
If you can’t, here’s a definition for you from Indeed:
“Presenteeism is when employees are present at work but are unable to fully perform and focus on their tasks due to an illness or other medical condition. Along with physical illnesses, such as the flu or respiratory infection, mental illness, such as chronic stress or anxiety, can also prevent an employee from fully focusing on their work. This can lead to lower productivity among staff and the spread of illness. When employees have time to recover at home, they can come to work healthy and recharged.”
While this definition was obviously written before the pandemic started, presenteeism is just as prevalent now in the workplace – remote or in office – as ever. Employees have more stress and are dealing with so much more thanks to the pandemic. And they aren’t getting the support from their co-workers like they did when they worked in an office.
In fact, it’s probably more prevalent because it’s easier to work when you’re sick if you’re doing it remotely. People aren’t hearing you cough nonstop, and they aren’t seeing you. Heck, you can work from your bed, looking like something the cat drug in. And with the Great Resignation many companies are doing more with less people, placing more stress on those who stay.
Annually, illness costs U.S. employers $225 billion, estimates the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And up to 60% of the cost is due to presenteeism, reports Virgin Pulse in Winning Workplace Wellbeing: A Five Step Guide.
Cost of presenteeism
“As a practicing specialist in occupational medicine for more than 30 years, I have seen increasing declines in employee health. This decline is related to two significant health issues – obesity and its associated health conditions, and an ever-increasing rise in psychological ill health,” said Dr. David Batman, International Occupational Health Adviser for Virgin Pulse in the guide. “It’s now time to build business success based on a fit, healthy and resilient workforce.”
He also stated that our workforces are in a “critical state,” and that 87% of workers across the world are disengaged. And that statistic is from 2016 data from a Gallup study. Add to that the fact our work/life balance is blurred from working remotely and just think what the percentage is now after two years of a pandemic!
So, you can see how important it is for Benefits pros to help make sure their workplace invests a huge effort in creating a well-being program to combat presenteeism.
If you already have a well-being program, but don’t think it’s doing all it should, check and see it you’ve achieved all the steps recommended by Virgin Pulse’s guide. Here are a few to get you started:
Get buy-in from the top guns! If you don’t have that, the program won’t be effective.
Executives and senior management must be on board with the whole well-being concept, or you’ll have a difficult time getting them to fund the program.
To do that, touch on their pain points. Are they focused on reducing healthcare costs? How about reducing absenteeism? Maybe they’re all in on upping employee engagement. Whatever their focuses are, tie your well-being program to those factors.
Once you’ve figured out their pain points, you need a concrete business plan. Think how well-being should fit in every function of your business and department.
Have a sit down with your CFO and talk his language – what it’ll cost your company if you don’t invest in a well-being program.
Then once the C-suite is on board, and legal has been included, get with your employees, and find out what they want and need in a well-being program. After all, they’re the ones who it’s for!
Create your program to address everyone – especially high-risk employees.
This isn’t easy because everyone has different needs, strengths, weaknesses and concerns. So, you must design a program that attracts and engages everyone when it comes to wellness, fitness, nutrition, sleep, etc.
How do you do that?
Avoid dramatic changes which can be discouraging for many and hard to sustain, recommends Dr. BJ Fogg, member of the Virgin Pulse Science Advisory Board, leading expert on behavioral change, in the guide. “Instead, focus people on making small changes that are meaningful to employees.”
Focus on value on investment (VOI), along with the almighty dollar, to measure the success of your program.
Because VOI opens everyone’s eye to how well-being impacts things other than financial metrics. It allows companies to see the level of engagement, productivity, resilience, and how well the program attracts and retains talent.
Once you’ve figured out which metrics you want to track, then measure VOI by focusing on population health improvement, job performance and the reputation of your company.
“My new rule of thumb is that an ROI of 1:1 is good enough if you can demonstrate significant improvement in VOI measures important to the business,” said Dr. Ron Goetzel, member of the Virgin Pulse Science Advisory Board, leading researcher in support of VOI, in the guide.