We are all familiar with the term absenteeism, but I want to introduce you to a word that isn’t spoken of much. And it’s one that you should be aware of… presenteeism. Simply put, presenteeism is being physically present at work, but not being able to do your job because of health issues.
There are a lot of things that cause people to miss work. It could be a death in the family or taking a personal day to attend a child’s field trip. But the most common reason people miss work is because they are sick. Even healthy individuals occasionally get colds or the flu from time to time, but it is chronic illness that takes the biggest toll on productivity in the U.S.
Chronic health conditions, such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and obesity, cause U.S. workers to miss an estimated 450 million days of work every year compared to healthy workers. This results in an estimated cost of more than $153 billion (that’s billion, with a B!) in lost productivity annually. Those are a lot of days, and that’s a lot of money!
Data collected from almost 8,000 Dow Chemical employees using the Stanford Presenteeism Scale demonstrated that absenteeism associated with chronic conditions resulted in 1.4 to 8.9 days lost each year for each employee. What I found even more compelling is that presenteeism associated with these conditions resulted in 45 to 91 days lost for every employee each year. Wow! This means that you made it to work on those days, but were as good as absent due to your health condition’s effect on your ability to function.
Eighty percent of all working Americans suffer from at least one chronic illness and fifty-five percent suffer from two or more. Odds are, if you are reading this article, you are suffering from at least one chronic illness. If these illnesses cause an average 45 to 91 days of presenteeism at work, you can only imagine what that means for the other areas of your life. You may spend a certain number of hours with your spouse, but how many of those do you show up at your best. How about time with your children, other family members, and friends? You might be there physically, but are weak, moody, uninterested, uninteresting, and emotionally unavailable.
On paper, those workers were there. They showed up. They received credit for clocking in. For many, that is a successful day. Living the wellness lifestyle will expand your definition of success and lead you to a level of experience and achievement you did not know was possible. If you are not as physically active as you should be, eat poorly, do not get enough sleep, are overcome with stress, and do not feel like you are living on purpose, yet still do a pretty good job at work, then just imagine what you are capable of if you improve those areas in your life. How much more could you produce? How high could you rise in that company? How much more money could you make? Exciting, huh? That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Now imagine how much better you could be as a father or mother, husband or wife, friend and neighbor, and member of your church and community.
Being well is not about being dead or alive, or limited to just showing up. It is about being fully present. Most people have difficulty thinking clearly and paying attention, struggle with low energy and fatigue, and are irritable and get agitated easily. These are often incorrectly labeled as “conditions,” but are simply the result of poor lifestyle choices.
Years ago I heard the quote, “Wherever you are, be there.” If you feel as though you are getting by at work, in your relationships, and in life, but not thriving due to your current level of health, decide now to change it. Making healthier lifestyle choices is the answer. It’s one thing to be absent, but if you are going be there, i.e. work, marriage, as a parent… then be there fully.