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Do you know the true cost of sick employees? If you’re a company that’s ready to implement or revise your wellbeing program, this data matters. Without addressing the root cause of employee health issues, wellness programming will be ineffective at reaching the employees who need it most. The cost of sick employees will continue to hurt your bottom line.

What’s the true cost of sick employees?  

Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI) released an analysis that found employers spent $575 billion on employees’ poor health in 2019. The study reported that every dollar of the almost $950 billion spent on healthcare benefits, “another $0.61 of productivity is lost to illness and injury.” In all, “illness-related absences” and lost productivity totaled almost 1.5 billion days each year. The same organization, IBI, estimates that the total cost of lost time from work due to the COVID-19 pandemic could reach $50.5 billion, marking a 117% increase from prior projections. The cost of sick employees and absenteeism is significant.

The lesser-known cost of sick employees

While absenteeism is significant and costly, presenteeism is detrimental to employers as well. Zen Business defines presenteeism as “employees who come to work sick or are suffering other conditions that prevent them from working productively.” The cost of sick employees in this category may be higher than those who are absent from work altogether. For comparison, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reports absenteeism costs employers $225.8 billion annually in the United States, or $1,685 per employee. A survey by Virgin Pulse indicated that employees averaged only 4 sick days a year, but the time they actually lost in productivity while on the job added up to 57.5 days of lost time per year, per employee. Almost two months of unproductive work time per employee is an even more staggering cost of sick employees that is not always factored into employer expenses.

What’s the solution to reduce the cost of sick employees?

Holistic, preventative wellbeing initiatives will have the greatest impact on reducing the cost of sick employees. Rather than addressing health problems once they arise, wellness programming that supports employees in all facets of life before they are sick will prevent absenteeism and presenteeism. Some of the health benefits for employees that will reduce the cost of sick employees are:

  • Including mental health, wellness, and ancillary benefits
  • Providing access to telehealth and virtual coaching
  • Offering digital health assistance
  • Customizing wellness programming to your unique employee population 

Broad employee wellness programs don’t work. Consider the challenges that are specific to your workplace and identify what’s costing you the most money. Wellness solutions need to support employee wellness for remote workers and in office employees. Biometric screenings, employee surveys, demographic awareness, manager reports, or location considerations can help better target solutions that are customizable for your population. Holistic employee wellness support is crucial to reduce the cost of sick employees. 

The true cost of sick employees has risen during the pandemic and it’s likely higher than the data shows. Dive into your numbers and then provide customized wellness programming to support your employees and your organizational health.