Flu season can have bosses struggling with ‘presenteeism,’ wellness firm Provant says

Feeling sluggish because of a cold or the flu? Then consider staying home, because going to work while sick isn’t doing the boss any favors.

So suggests Rhode Island-based Provant, a self-described workplace wellness company. (Not to put too fine a point on it, Provant is a “wellness solutions company” that helps companies to “build cultures of health designed to improve the health, well-being, and productivity of employees while supporting employers with their health care affordability agenda.”)

Provant has just put out a report on “presenteeism,” which is defined as workers “underperforming while sick.” In lay person terminology, this can mean that an employee with the flu decides it would be better to show up at the office than call in sick. Often the result is an employee doing suboptimal work. And there’s also the concern that sick workers can infect their colleagues.

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“Working while sick costs employers billions in lost productivity,” Provant said.

As the Provant study notes, on-the-job productivity losses from presenteeism can amount to as much as 60 percent of the cost of worker illness – more than the total spent on medical, disability, and absenteeism combined.

And as the firm’s website also notes, Provant offers a range of solutions such as workplace wellness and health programs that can help companies cut down on presenteeism.

“A healthy worker is a productive worker, yet unfortunately, many employees come to work struggling with unmanaged health conditions and significantly underperform because of them,” Provant chief executive Heather Provino said in a statement. “A carefully designed wellness program can not only reduce the obvious health care costs – premiums and out-of-pocket expenses – but can also help individuals perform at their optimal levels, resulting in mutual success for both employee and employer, allowing both parties to recoup the often more expensive erosion of productivity attributable to chronic health conditions.”