Presenteeism and stress at workThis article addresses “presenteeism,” the productivity lost by employees who are on the job but accomplishing little because they are distracted or suffering from fatigue or depression. The author believes this issue is particularly important now that many employers are financially unable to invest in infrastructure enhancements, making worker productivity more important than ever before. A recently completed multi employer study measured the total costs of employee illnesses.

Among its findings:

  • 63 percent of employees who were experiencing symptoms of depression weren’t being treated;
  • Health-related productivity costs are three times greater than direct medical costs; and
  • Mental stress and related illnesses like anxiety and depression are one reason so many white-collar workers feel the need to work more than 40 hours a week.

According to the co-chair of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine Section on Health & Productivity, “Given the dire economic situation we’re in, that stress may be one of the most unmitigated environmental toxic exposures we face as a society.”

This article calls on employers to be proactive in helping people cope with this situation but admits that it’s hard for managers to understand mental well-being and diagnose the stress going on inside an employee’s head. But with an average of 5.6 hours lost per week per employee, it’s well worth the effort.

Joanne Wojcik – Business Insurance; Mar 2, 2009 v43 i9 p4

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