The high cost of presenteeism

As winter moves along, many of us are surrounded by sick co-workers who show up in the office, at lunches and at meetings, determined (or so it seems) to infect the rest of us. This behavior is so prevalent that it now has an official name, “presenteeism,” and it costs companies a lot of money because it makes other people sick. The good news is that some companies have started to recognize the high cost of presenteeism and encourage sick employees to stay home and rest (or work from home if they are up to it).

I recognize that some employers may not be enlightened enough to embrace this way of thinking, and that some people don’t have enough sick days or feel secure enough in their jobs to stay home even when they are sick. But here are a few reasons why you should stay home if you can.

1. We all know that you can often accomplish more work in a few hours at home with no interruptions than in eight hours in the office. If you have the flexibility to work from home, then days when you are brewing a cold or dealing with a full-blown one are the ideal time to practice your telecommuting skills.

2. Since people are most contagious in the first two or three days of a cold, you will help your whole organization by not getting your colleagues sick.

3. Putting aside those who are legitimately fearful of losing their jobs, the people who show up while sick tend to be the ones so arrogant that they think work cannot go on without their presence. You don’t want to be one of those. (If this sounds like someone you know, you may want to print out this post and leave it anonymously where that person can find it.)

4. If you rest, you will probably get well faster. So by taking some time off, you will probably improve your overall productivity.

5. In these days of meeting overload, you will probably make someone very happy if your absence means that a meeting has to be canceled.

Extract from a NYT article