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Reigning in the High Cost of 'Presenteeism'


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Human Resource & Payroll Services And Solutions - Houston, Dallas, Austin - Texas "Presenteeism" is the phenomenon of employees coming to work, but with diminished productivity. It can be due to a temporary mental health disorder. The cost to employers is generally much greater than they realize -- assuming they are even tuned in to the phenomenon. How do you identify the problem -- and address it? Read on for some answers.

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Reigning in the High Cost of 'Presenteeism'

  1. 1. Toll Free: 877.880.4477 Phone : 281.880.6525 Reigning in the High Cost of 'Presenteeism'
  2. 2. The impact of "presenteeism" on smaller employers can be particularly challenging -- because there are fewer people to take up the slack. "Presenteeism" is the phenomenon of employees coming to work, but with diminished productivity.
  3. 3. Health vs. Performance Issue When an employee's productivity drops, it may be tempting to view the situation narrowly as a performance issue. But "every performance issue is a health issue in one way or another, and often it's a mental health issue," according to Dr. Jeff Guardalabene, a psychologist and mental health case manager for Standard Insurance Company. Also, under some circumstances, clinical depression, a very common cause of presenteeism, may be treated as a disability covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act, requiring reasonable accommodations.
  4. 4. Note: While mental health benefits are already widely included in employee benefit plans and, when offered, must be offered on a similar basis as other health benefits, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will expand them further as mental health and substance abuse treatment services are included in ACA's package of "essential health benefits." Supervisors should not be expected to become mental health experts and diagnose illness, and they have to come to grips one way or another with diminished output. But they can gain important and practical insights from becoming more attentive to their employees' health on a holistic basis, including the "whole package of their personality, their emotions and their mental health," Dr. Guardalabene says.
  5. 5. Effects of Depression and Anxiety For starters, changes in an employee's appearance and demeanor should be noted as a red flag. Depression impacts people's motivation, planning abilities, concentration, sleep -- "all kinds of things that would show up on the job," Dr. Guardalabene says. Being aware of employee anxiety levels and triggers is also important and enhances your ability to manage a potential source of trouble. Some employees, for example, may find change (such as being shifted to a new job or team) much more stressful than others. High anxiety can sap productivity and lead to a major depression.
  6. 6. This does not mean such an employee can be forever shielded from change, but indicates the change might need to be handled delicately. Early intervention on the sources of presenteeism by qualified professionals is much preferable to attacking the problem after it has reached an acute level and become obvious. In principle, a supervisor should not suggest to an individual employee that he or she could benefit from mental health services, but the seed can still be planted. Such a discussion may also be guided by the strength of the relationship, and whether the employee raises the issue.
  7. 7. Dr. Guaradlabene says employees could be more open to taking advantage of employee assistance programs and mental health benefits if employers implemented the following practices: De-stigmatize mental health problems. "It begins at the top. Employers can lead by example by speaking very candidly about mental health simply as something that impacts people.“ Publicize your employee assistance program (if applicable) and mental health coverage. "Make it a priority for people to know that these services are available and that they are just as important as the other benefits.“ Encourage employees to take advantage of basic screening services. Online questionnaires provided by wellness or behavioral health services can not only identify possible issues, but give emotionally healthy employees a higher comfort level dealing with questions about mental health so they would be more likely to seek help if they need it at some future date. t
  8. 8. Related Research For a broader perspective, consider the conclusion of an academic study1 which determined 70 percent of the full cost to employers of poor employee health is lost productivity due to presenteeism and absenteeism, and only 30 percent involves medical and pharmaceutical expenses. Another study which concluded 80 percent of productivity loss is due to presenteeism, and only 20 percent to absenteeism, for behavioral health issues.2 1 Health and Productivity as a Business Strategy: A Multi-Employer Study, Journal of Occupational Environmental Medicine, 51940; 411-428, pp. 140-152, Loeppke R, et al 2 "EAP treatment impact on presenteeism: Implications for return on investment," Journal of WorkplaceBehavioral Health, Hargrave G.E., et al, 2008.
  9. 9. 14550 Torrey Chase Blvd., Ste. 360 Houston, TX 77014 USA E-mail : Toll Free Phone Fax : : : 877.880.4477 281.880.6525 281.866.9426