Staff Retention – Presenteeism, the Silent Productivity Killer

Presenteeism is a fairly new concept and I guess you can say it's the sibling or at least a distant cousin to absenteeism. The word itself is a

Presenteeism is a fairly new concept and I guess you can say it’s the sibling or at least a distant cousin to absenteeism. The word itself is a mouthful but it doesn’t mean anything more than that an employee shows up for work even though they are unwell. Unwell in this case is defined as having one or several health factors affecting you. These health factors range from medical conditions, allergies, physical inactivity to lack of emotional fulfilment and depression. And the end-result is poor performance, reduced productivity and issues with staff retention.

In a recent study done by Medibank Private (2007) people experienced a productivity reduction of 45% – on average! That is huge. It is the equivalent of paying someone a full-time salary for part-time work. Not too many businesses can afford that and even if they can, it’s difficult to build momentum with a wounded crew.

Another study presented in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (2004), presenteeism and absenteeism bundled together reduced productivity between 3.6%-32.2% for 1-8 health factors present. For a single person with an annual salary of $35.000 that would mean $1.260-$11.270 per year, and just to put it into perspective, for an entire team of 20 people that it would mean a staggering $25.200-$225.400/year in lost productivity each year. And that is not taking into account selling or up-selling opportunities missed, possible burnouts, damage to your brand and so on and so forth.

Whether you believe in the research or not, I don’t think anyone can deny the impact unhealth has over a persons performance and presentation. The questions we need to ask ourselves are; how are my people or colleagues doing? Don’t assume that just because you feel great or because they put on a great face every day that they are doing okay. Your best bet is an anonymous survey done by a third party as I feel that you will get the most accurate response in that way. And once you have established where improvements need to be made, find the appropriate strategy or organisation to help you achieve them.

You will usually find that the coast of implementing a corporate wellness program (if necessary) is but a fraction of the coast of what you stand to lose if you don’t. But don’t look to instant fixes to do the trick; this needs to be worked on continuously over a period of time. Sending them off to a seminar with a motivational speaker, a single team-building event or workshop won’t change things. At best it will ignite a spark of motivation, but that will quickly die out without weekly reinforcements.

While it may not be easy, it is far from impossible to significantly improve the health of your team as long as you encourage participation, set long-term goals and don’t try to short-cut your way through. Best of luck!

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