The Hidden Cost of Your Company Sick Leave Policy

Women sitting at an empty table, in an empty office, with her laptop open. Title - The hidden cost of your company sick leave policy

Has absenteeism ever been an issue among your employees? In many companies, the absence of even one person can affect your production for the entire day, sometimes longer. Maybe you put a sick leave policy in place to help prevent this from happening? How did that work out? Have you found that productivity hasn’t changed or maybe even worsened? Do your employees show up when sick, even if they are contagious, simply due to fear of guilt or disciplinary action? This happens all the time, it’s a form of presenteeism.

Employee presenteeism is a fairly new term that describes the state of workers who show up even though they are not really present. It could be allergies causing them to muddle through tasks or even a mental distraction like an argument with a spouse. Presenteeism is costing your organization big time in productivity and engagement. Although this can be tough to track and gauge, there are ways of preventing it from becoming an issue, like re-visiting your sick leave policies.

Guarantee Your Sick Leave Policy Doesn’t Encourage Presenteeism

Revise Your Policy

Do you have an overly strict sick leave policy that punishes anyone taking a sick day at any time? Your policy will vary depending on the needs of your company, but employees should be encouraged to stay home when they are sick. Make this a part of your culture.

Not only do you lose productivity when an employee feels forced to be present but it causes other employees to lose motivation and spreads illnesses. Even if an employee comes in feeling mentally distracted, the lack of motivation seeps into other people and projects.
Read our Monday Motivation series here for tips and tricks to stay productive all week long.

Make Well-Being Everyone’s Responsibility

High-performance companies are choosing to incorporate well-being programs into their workplace. Providing healthy snacks and offering incentives or competitions around your employees well-being are beneficial for engagement and productivity.

What does well-being have to do with productivity? Research shows employee’s health directly contributes to on-the-job performance, behavior, and attendance. Over 75 percent of high-performing companies said their overall risk management strategy includes regularly measuring their employees current health status.

Set an Example

As a leader, you’re setting the stage for expectations. If you show up to work sick, it shows you expect people to do the same. If you discipline and criticize employees or other leaders for calling in sick, your employees will likely treat co-workers the same. An employee should be judged by the job they do and their regular productivity rather than the number of days they are seated at their desk.

If an employee is absent once a month, but they produce more than the employee who has perfect attendance – who’s getting the raise?

Provide Flexibility

That might mean flexibility in workspace or skill sets. In some industries, you have the ability to allow an employee to work from home, especially if it’s only once in a while when they are sick.

On the other hand, enable your employees with skills so that when someone essential to your team is absent, the rest of your team players can pick up the pace. Most employees will be happy for the opportunity to learn something new and be an invaluable asset to the company. But don’t let this turn into guilt trips on the employee who called in sick. They should feel confident that their co-workers are willing and able to lend a hand when needed.

Read How to Create a Successful PTO Program, every business needs one.

Increase Dialogue

Leaders who actively engage with their employees are more likely to detect any issues and deal with them before they actually become a problem. Physical ailments or injuries are easy to spot but what about mental or psychological symptoms that can often be more of a distraction? Even allergies can be nearly impossible to detect but can be excruciating to the one suffering. Empathetic leaders are much more likely to notice and understand these situations.
See our SlideShare, 10 Simple Tricks: How to Show Employees You Care.

How Are You Battling Employee Presenteeism?Women looking at her laptop screen with her hand on her forehead with a frustrated look on her face.

Recognition and prevention are the first steps of action business owners should take in fighting presenteeism. Create a policy that fits your company’s needs but also allows space for employees to care for themselves. This is a complex issue that’s tough to gauge how much it’s actually costing you, but the steps you can take to prevent it are much more simple.

What do you think? Has absenteeism or presenteeism been an issue in your business? Do you think the larger issue here is employees coming into work sick or just distracted? What are you doing to combat it? How is that working for you and your employees? We want to know your experiences, tell us your story in the comments below.

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