CBS’s Hannah Storm introduced a new problem to America this morning on “The Early Show.” It’s called “presenteeism,” and it stands for employees who show up to work sick. Syler and her guest, Dr. Emily Senay, suggested that this is almost as big a problem as absenteeism, which, of course, is people NOT showing up for work.
Senay presented some statistics to support her case. She mentioned that 48 percent of employers surveyed see presenteeism as being a problem. However, isn’t that a minority? Moreover, 36 percent of employers discourage their employees from coming into work when they’re sick. Conversely, this suggests that 64 percent don’t.
It would have been interesting to see some methodology concerning these surveys. For instance, what kind of employers were questioned? Were they business owners, or managers and supervisors of large corporations?
What follows is a full transcript of this report, along with a video link.
Storm: This morning on "Healthwatch," taking sick days. Lots of people are hesitant to call in sick to work and maybe they think it looks bad to their boss. But the fact is, heading into the office with a cold or the flu can do more harm than good for everyone involved. Our Dr. Emily Senay is here to talk some sense into us this morning.
Senay: Wonder why they sent you for this segment.
Storm: I never call in sick. You know what, I feel guilty calling in sick.
Senay: Everybody does. A lot of people do.
Storm: But that's really stupid, right?
Senay: It can be. There are two problems. We tend to think that anybody will take any advantage they can to be out of work. That's called absenteeism but there is this other problem like yourself who will show up no matter what, with a raging fever or cough, they don't care, they will drag themselves in and create a problem called presenteeism and almost as big a problem for corporations and companies as absenteeism. Now they've done a survey. They've looked at this and found of employers, 48% report a problem with presenteeism and that's up 39% from last year.
Storm: We learned a new word today, presenteeism. How do you prevent people, though, from showing up at work? What can be done?
Senay: Employers are really starting to address this problem for two reasons. Not only are people not very productive when they come into the office sick. But they're spreading their germs around. So they're making co-workers sick. They're trying to change the culture a little bit and also done a survey asking the same employers how they're handling the problem. They're finding they're more likely to send people home. 62% said they would send a sick employee home. 41% said they would educate employees to stay home when sick and 36% discourage employees from coming to work sick. It's a cultural change. We have got to take away the guilt so people will take the time to recuperate, not bring germs in.
Storm: Maybe we have to think of it like school when you would keep your kid home from school so they don't infect other kids. Maybe we should get into that mentality, because how easy is it for germs to spread at the office?
Selay: Think about it. They're everywhere. We bring our colds in, our flu into the office, coughing and sneezing, touching surfaces, moving around the office. The co-workers touch the same surfaces, put their hands to their face, their eyes and nose and face and they're going to get it. It's a very efficient way to spread germs in fact.
Storm: You're just shaking people's hands, right? What's a good rule of thumb? What should we keep in mind? When should we stay home?
Selay: It's important to know stay home. If you feel sick, stay home. If you have a fever, that's really important. You have to stay home until you're afebrile or without a fever 24 hours. Avoid close contact with co-workers. Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. That's radical.
Storm: Thanks, mom, for that. Heard that one before.
Selay: The most important thing is to wash your hands regularly. If you keep your hand clean, you're going to avoid a lot of problems. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Just the basics. A lot of people I see and I think it's important, when they come in in the morning, they clean the phone with the handy wipes.
Storm: So that's not over the top.
Selay: I don't think so.
Storm: Dr. Emily Senay, thanks. Presenteeism.