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Holistic Thinking is the Key to Cutting Presenteeism

Holistic Thinking is the Key to Cutting Presenteeism
Posted on Thursday, May 4, 2017 by Rae Shanahan
As managers and HR pros, we’ve all seen the signs: shutterstock_391673635


Employees coming into the office sleep deprived, with a stuffy nose or throbbing headache, feeling stressed and acting lethargic. Time to schedule a wellness lunch & learn and a flu-shot clinic? Not necessarily.

These are all signs of presenteeism in the workplace – employees come to work, but don’t function at their full potential. Presenteeism costs U.S. companies more than $1.5 billion a year, according to VirginPulse. That’s 10 times more than the cost of absenteeism.

So, what can we do to address these issues? Spoiler alert: Not with a wellness lunch & learn and a flu-shot clinic. Here are four steps to helping employees be more present and less presentee.

First, train managers to recognize employee presenteeism. Advise managers to meet with direct reports regularly and learn how to tune into signs that an employee is struggling mentally or physically. Earlier this week, we shared tips on how to recognize and constructively address mental illness in the workplace. Training managers who are on the front line is critical to improving the well-being of employees and helping them overcome issues that drain their ability to perform at work.  

Second, commit to educating employees about the benefits available to them year-round. Regular communication about benefits will better equip employees to tackle their health problems sooner rather than later. It is so common for an employee to think that they “just get sick often” when, in reality, they may have allergies or a chronic condition that can be treated with proper medication. Or, an employee may think they are “just stressed out,” but improperly managed stress can lead to mental and physical illness that have long-term effects. Make sure your employees are aware of all benefits provided by your company and that they understand how to use them.  

Third, foster a culture that empowers employees to take their health into their own hands, for example, by offering health and wellness programs. Whether it’s losing weight, quitting smoking or developing healthy habits, giving employees the tools they need to be successful will cut costs in the long run.

Finally, create a well-defined policy for sick and PTO days. Employees should feel comfortable taking a day off when sick. One way to do that is to offer “rolling sick days” that transfer into the new year – that way there is no “use it or lose it” mentality. Further, managers should encourage employees to actually stay home when they are sick, and work with teams to provide coverage while ill employees are out of the office. No one wants to feel like they are letting their team down or falling behind if they don’t come in. Define the culture in your office and you will see a huge improvement in presenteeism.