The phenomenon known as presenteeism is defined as workers’ being on the job but, because of illness, stress or other medical conditions, not fully engaged.
According to a year-long telephone survey of 29,000 working adults, the calculated cost of presenteeism in the U.S. was more than $150 billion a year. On average, employees cost businesses the equivalent of three months per year in lost productivity.
Lost productivity due to employees addressing personal issues at work has surfaced with a vengeance, an increase that may be related to health issues or the stress of caring for aging parents or children, but it seems to have coincided with the intrusion of work into our personal lives.
Which came first?
There are persuasive arguments on both sides. Perhaps the invasion of work into our personal lives has always been there in the form of stress, a result of “bringing our work home with us.” Certainly, disruptions have been exacerbated in the modern day workforce; a consequence of a culture that promotes 100% accessibility all of the time via smartphones. Many employers even offer partial reimbursement for personal cell phones because of the expectation that we are to be available for after hour work-related matters.
Alternatively, the influx of disruptions to our personal lives have had a negative impact on our total well-being, and as a result, we don’t show up as our best self to work every day. We bring our personal worries and stresses with us. They are top of mind and ready to distract us at work.
There on the side of our desk, or in our pocket is the gateway to our anxiety. The cell phone, a frequent culprit of interrupting our “work lives.” While employees may shy away from making personal calls from their desk or pulling up personal information on their work computer, the smartphone allows for a private way to pay bills, search for the nearest hair salon, or respond to a worrisome text from a family member. According to a recent study commissioned by Kaspersky Lab, just having a personal cell phone nearby impacted employee productivity negatively by 26%.
Policies can quickly be put in place eliminating cell phone use in the workplace, but we are ignoring the more prominent part of the problem – our well-being.
Gallup defines total well-being as more than physical health but includes social/emotional health, financial health, feeling connected to a sense of purpose, and community health. All of these components contribute to us being happy, healthy, and productive in both our work life and our personal life.
Maybe it doesn’t even make sense to differentiate between these two spheres anymore because they are so intertwined. For many of us, we find a sense of purpose in our job. Sustaining a career contributes to our financial health, and money struggles can significantly influence our social/emotional health. Poor physical health negatively impacts all other categories of well-being. If we bring our work home and bring our personal stuff to work, maybe it’s less significant that we are productive at work or thriving in our job, and more critical that we thrive in all areas of well-being.
This lens lends an interesting spin on health & well-being programs. All of a sudden, it makes less sense for your traditional wellness program to operate in a silo where success is measured by how well you control healthcare costs.
Can your health & well-being program be positioned as more than just a cost-saving solution tied to your medical plan?
Integrating health and well-being efforts into the workplace culture can foster a positive workplace experience and support a diverse and multi-generational workforce. Employees with a higher level of well-being are more productive, subsequently reducing absenteeism and presenteeism. They are more loyal to their employer, they are resilient, they have fewer chronic illnesses, fewer workplace injuries, and their aptitude to impact their organization is greater.
Shira Wilensky OneDigital National Practice Leader, Health & Wellbeing