In today’s fast-paced office environment, work never seems to slow down and employees are under increasing pressure to remain productive. This could be why some employees continue to push themselves to come into the office, even when they become ill. Sick workers who don’t stay home are part of a phenomenon called presenteeism. The issue of presenteeism is extremely common, and it does more than hurt the sick employee; it also negatively affects other workers and contributes to a sharp productivity decline. In fact, nearly 40 percent of employers believe presenteeism is a major problem in their companies.
Although some employers may appreciate employees who come to work despite their sickness, this can create huge problems down the line. Contrary to the notion that their “can-do” attitude is inspiring, sick employees are better off at home. Studies have shown that workers who are ill are not very productive and, if their illness is contagious, they can further reduce productivity by getting other workers sick too.
Most employees understand how problematic it is to come to work sick, but there are underlying factors that motivate employees to show up anyway. According to a study conducted by the health and safety organization NSF, 25 percent of US workers are employed at a company that expects them to show up no matter what. Additionally, some employees work for employers who don’t offer any sick pay, so they show up to the office out of financial obligation. Others believe that no one else can do their job and are trying to minimize the huge workload that would be waiting if they took time off. Regardless of the reason, employers should understand that sick employees really would rather stay home and recover but often feel they can’t. So how can employers keep sick employees from coming to work?
Follow these tips to encourage employees to stay home:
Offer Telecommuting as an Option for Sick Workers
With modern technology, many offices have already instituted full or partial work-from-home policies. Not only does telecommuting save valuable resources and contribute to generally happier employees, it is also a great option for sick employees. Of course, some jobs can only be done at a physical work location, but for those jobs that can be done remotely, this may be a viable option.
High-level executives should work closely with HR and management to form a solid work-from-home policy. Good items to include are how to manage one’s workload when an employee is working from home, methods to stay current on projects, and ways that the policy can potentially impact fellow employees. It’s also important to understand that even if a sick employee is working from home, the person is still sick, so his or her workload may need to be adjusted accordingly.
While working from home is a realistic option for sick office workers, other types of businesses may not be able to offer this as an option. In the case of manufacturing or service-based businesses, it may be necessary to explore more creative alternatives to keep sick employees out of the workplace.
Provide Sick Pay
Employers have a great deal of flexibility when it comes to whether or not they will provide sick and vacation pay. Some employers are very generous with the amount of sick leave they offer, but others do not provide it at all due to financial concerns or because of the overall workload. HR departments are charged with administering benefits, but managers need to communicate when the current policies aren’t working.
A cost-benefit analysis is a great way to determine whether it is better to offer sick pay or to have sick workers come to the office and transmit their illness to colleagues and, thus, reduce productivity. Employers may end up losing money in the latter case, which negates the savings generated by not offering paid sick leave. Once it is clear how much companies save by letting sick employees stay home, it will be easier to institute a paid sick-time policy that works for everyone.
Consider Implementing Wellness Programs
There is no way to guarantee that employees will never get sick, but there are ways to prevent illness and reduce the likelihood of missed work days. One of the easiest solutions is to implement a workplace wellness program. The goal of these programs is to raise employees’ health awareness by inspiring them to take control of their health.
Starting a wellness program is likely to pay off for several reasons. First, employees who feel empowered about their health tend to get sick less often and will miss fewer days throughout the year. Secondly, wellness programs are great for raising a business’ competitive advantage and can be instrumental in attracting and retaining new talent. Potential employees are impressed by businesses that demonstrate that they care about their employees.
Companies can implement wellness programs in several ways. Some employers keep it simple by just offering flu shots, while others bring in consultants to develop a comprehensive program that the organization can expand over time.