Expect nothing, live frugally on surprise.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bunk office if you can

Last week, one of my colleagues was in a sorry state. She was hacking, coughing, sniffling, sneezing AND apologising constantly. Exasperated, we threatened to send her off to the AIIMS out-patient departments—that ultimate punishment spot for time-crunched professionals. Mortified, she explained that an issue of one of the weekla magazines had to be put to bed. And although sick as a dog, she just felt obliged to come to office and meet the deadline.A month back, she would have been patted on the back for being so dedicated and hardworking. Don't we all know that absenteeism is the bane of India Inc? About 51 working days in a year are lost along with 14 per cent in productivity and profits. So people coming in to work even when they are under the weather should indicate that a company is in the pink of health, right? Wrong. In a recession-hit world, corporates are now singing a different tune. The feared phenomenon is presenteeism (opposite of abseenteeism). It's not about pretending to be ill or surfing the Net when you shouldn't be. But it's about productivity loss due to real health issues—allergies, asthma, chronic back pain, migraines, arthritis or depression. These are not the serious illnesses which force people to stay away from work. But they do reduce work productivity. The problem with presenteeism is that on-the-job low productivity (and making co-workers sick) ultimately cost a lot of money. A recent Harvard Business Review suggests that presenteeism costs more than $150 billion per year in decreased productivity. And it causes a greater loss to companies than the costs of absenteeism, direct and indirect medical costs and long- and short-term disability payments put together. So should one call in sick or stay at home, then? What are your criteria for staying at home—sneezes and sniffles, or a full-blown case of the flu? How is presenteeism handled in your workplace? Are people aware of it? Let's hear your thoughts.


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