Abstract Musings

Documenting the random thoughts of a cluttered mind


I always thought the problem was employees not coming to work. Apparently, people who show up to work with illnesses are a bigger problem.

Kidding aside, I have always thought that “presenteeism” was a problem, not just in the workplace but in school as well, for two reasons that I think are fairly obvious:

  1. Workers who are ill won’t be as productive as they normally would be, and

  2. Coming to work with a contagious sickness, such as the flu or a cold, presents the risk of passing the illness on to others; reducing their effectiveness and ability to be present for work.

Number two is mitigated by non-communicable illnesses, like irritable bowel syndrome or migraines, but the first reason applies pretty much for any illness. Overall, the article presents a good argument for employers to implement programs designed to reduce the effects of “presenteeism.”

The poster child for a positive return on such investments is the flu shot. Numerous studies have shown that the cost of offering free shots is far outweighed by the savings realized through reductions in both absenteeism and presenteeism. There is also strong evidence that well-designed employee assistance programs (which offer counseling services for employees and their families), health risk assessments (which gather information from workers on conditions, such as high blood pressure, that may cause future health problems), and wellness programs (which promote healthy practices such as exercising and following a nutritious diet) more than pay for themselves by lowering companies’ direct and indirect medical costs.