Have you noticed how many people are suffering from their first head cold of the ‘cooler’ seasons? Potentially the first of many through the cold and flu season. Often, we see people powering on at work through their cough and cold, but, the evidence shows it’s not great from a productivity point of view, and nor is it good for their colleagues who then also end up sick.


In 2016, Pathology Awareness Australia (PAA) commissioned a report from the Centre for International Economics, into presenteeism in Australia, which found that it was costing the economy more than $34 billion dollars a year! This cost comes from the combined effect of the lost productivity from the sick employee (have you ever noticed how much longer it takes to do something when you’re blowing your nose every 2 minutes?) and from the flow on effect of infecting other colleagues.


As many workplaces become more flexible, there’s often the temptation for employees who can, to say, ‘I’ll just work from home’, and while it does prevent the spreading of germs to colleagues, it doesn’t relieve the productivity issues (which often includes attention to detail issues) that comes with working while you’re sick. We try to encourage our team to use their sick days when they’re sick, rather than work from home. As with all conscientious people though, employees don’t always want to increase their colleagues’ workload, or not complete tasks, so they can rest.


According to a report from CIPD and Simply Health in 2016, coming to work while sick was linked to higher levels of stress leave taken in the longer term. Employers that saw an increase in presenteeism were nearly twice as likely to see an increase in stress-related absences. These findings suggest that the cost of presenteeism is much more than the cost of simply sharing germs and not working as effectively.


To help manage the issue of presenteeism in your business this cold and flu season we suggest:


  1. Leading by Example

As a leader of your organisation, you’re not always showing your dedication to the team by coming to work sick. Teach your team to respect their colleagues and their bodies and rest and recover from a cold and definitely stay away if they’ve got the flu!


  1. Review your Policies

If your Human Resources policies only cover details of how to take sick leave, it might be worth a refresh, to cover your workplace policies on what’s expected when someone is sick and comes to work. Are they required to go home? Are they permitted to work from home? Do they need a doctor’s certificate for every sick day? These questions are all important to consider when updating your policies.


  1. Consider a Wellness Program

A wellness program may help increase the overall well-being of your staff, in turn, reducing the number of illnesses your team suffer each year. This can only have a positive result for both absenteeism and presenteeism numbers in your workplace. Healthy eating, social exercise and encouraging employees to look after their mental health are all important to reducing these costs.


If you’re not sure how to best approach the management of these solutions, talk to our Workplace Partners, who can help you to implement new strategies and employee management solutions for your business.