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Worksite Health

What is presenteeism and why is it important?

11/01/2006

Question:

What is presenteeism and why is it important? This seems to be the new catch phrase around the office.

Answer:

Every work day hundreds of people go to work even though they are not feeling one hundred percent. These people, who are feeling lousy and may be contagious, are not able to work as effectively as they would if their health was better. This phenomena, called presenteeism, is having a significant effect on productivity in businesses and may actually be a bigger issue in worksites than absenteeism.

Some common reasons for presenteeism may be:

Research conducted at the Cornell Institute for Health and Productivity Studies estimates that on-the-job productivity losses from presenteeism may be as high as 60 percent of the total cost of worker illness. Those conditions leading to the most significant productivity losses include:

The expenses associated with these types of productivity losses surpass medical costs in general in some instances. While not going to work for one or two days when ill may seem initially like a significant impediment to "getting the job done", examination of the costs associated with this behavior highlights the benefit of rest and self-care to minimize exacerbation of symptoms and passing illness on to others. Worksites that offer onsite medical care and educate their employees on self-care measures may minimize the impact of presenteeism thereby enhancing productivity.

For more information:

Go to the Worksite Health health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Elizabeth R Click, ND, RN, CWP Elizabeth R Click, ND, RN, CWP
Assistant Professor of Nursing and Medical Director
Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing
Case Western Reserve University