Presenteeism Impacts Bottom Line

April 23, 2004 ( - Workers showing up to the office when they are under the weather may do more harm than good.

Workers who come in sick cost their employers an average of $255 each per year, according to Cornell University labor researchers. That is because si ck employees have difficulty concentrating, work more slowly and have to repeat tasks, bogging down productivity, according to an Associated Press report.

The study found on average the so-called “presenteeism” accounted for 61% of an employee’s total medical and lost-productivity costs. This corresponds with other studies cited by the Associated Press suggesting presenteeism costs U.S. businesses $180 billion annually in lost productivity.

In fact, Cornell research say presenteeism may actually cost employers even more than absenteeism due to illness. “Presenteeism might be more costly if you have an employee start an epidemic and you knock out the whole office,” said Ron Goetzel, director of Cornell’s Institute for Health and Productivity Studies in Washington, which conducted the research.

“This is a very large category of expenses, even exceeding the costs of absenteeism and medical and disability benefits, and part of the problem is that employers have not yet fully recognized the financial impact it can have on their business,” Goetzel continued.

To obtain their figures, the Cornell researchers analyzed information from a medical database of about 375,000 employees. They combined the data with findings from five published productivity surveys for 10 health conditions that commonly affect workers. The study is published in the April issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.