A plague on your house!

Stop presenteeism—working sick—from ruining your veterinary workplace.
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Mar 01, 2013


Bob Levoy
It's a problem more disruptive and costly than employees missing work: It's presenteeism—contagiously sick employees showing up for work.

Employees who think they're doing their employers a favor should think twice about showing up for work when they really aren't up to the task. Reason No. 1: Productivity drops when employees come to work but perform below-par because of illness. Reason No. 2: Contagious employees frequently infect coworkers, not to mention clients. Coworkers wind up seeing the sickie coughing, sneezing, and profusely sweating, responding, "I'm fine," when people ask.

According to a recent Harris Interactive survey, 56 percent of employers report that "presenteeism" is a problem in their organization, up from 39 percent two years earlier. The reasons that sick employees push themselves to go to work are varied. Dedicated employees don't want to let their employer or co-workers down; they know how important they are to the smooth functioning of the practice. Others are concerned about losing a day's pay (especially those with no paid sick days) or missing out on incentive programs that encourage perfect attendance. Some want to avoid the guilt trip that some employers lay on about calling in sick.

Action steps: A 2005 Commerce Clearing House survey asked employers what they're doing to reduce "presenteeism." Sixty-two percent of responding organizations said they send sick employees home. Forty-one percent educate employees on the importance of staying home when sick, and 36 percent try to foster a culture that discourages sick employees from coming to work.

These policies result in a veterinary practice, especially a small one, being understaffed and shorthanded. Cross training is one workable solution. If your team is cross-trained, you can quickly plug critical gaps without calling in temporary workers, running up your overtime costs, or stinting on client services.