It should really come as no surprise that employers would take a vested interest in the health of their employees. From the outset, employees not showing up to work due to medical illnesses instantly reduces productivity. Most people can relate to that. Take a sick leave once a month and we are looking at about 2.5 weeks of lost productivity in a year. Multiply that by the number of employees in a company and you may get to a figure that is staggering, not to mention, costly.
Being absent from work doesn’t just affect the individual who is ill. Most people work in teams and having absentees mean coping with delayed meetings (both internal and external), slower email replies and a general delay in work submission. To sum it up, absenteeism due to poor health may potentially have wider implications for companies.
Aside from being absent from work, another major concern for employers is the problem of presenteeism. In this case, presenteeism refers to having employees who are turning up to work despite being ill, or having some medical conditions that may hinder them from functioning at 100%.
Unlike absenteeism where it’s easy for a company to track and monitor numbers, presenteeism is a much tougher problem to handle or track. Employees may be showing up to work but not performing to the best of their abilities. They appear fine from the outside even as they are struggling to deliver quality work due to their illnesses. Moreover, they may also spread harmful viruses and bacteria to others in the office. Simply showing up for work doesn’t mean that everything is fine.
The cost of both absenteeism and presenteeism stemming from poor health can be very high. According to Professor Dame Sally Davis, Chief Medical Officer for England, about 23.3 million workdays were lost in Britain due to work-related ill health in 2015. Elsewhere in her report, it was also found that mental health illness cost the UK economy about £70bn-£100bn every year. Over in the U.S., the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that depression cost U.S. employers about US$35 billion a year while pain conditions such as headaches and back problems set them back nearly US$47 billion. While there are no official figures yet on how much illnesses may be costing companies in Singapore, it’s not difficult to imagine how that can be a significant cost burden to our economy.
At the end of the day, less healthy employees may not be able to deliver the quality of work that is expected to contribute to the growth of the company Eventually, this may take a toll on a company’s top and bottom line as its reputation suffers leading to loss of existing business and inability to win new business.