At some point in our careers, we’ve all noticed a colleague or employee who continued to push through meetings to accommodate deadlines, all while displaying symptoms of a cold, flu, or other medical condition. However, since not all illnesses are visible, it can be difficult for employers and managers to determine if an employee is an underperformer or if illness may be negatively impacting an employee’s performance due to obligatory feelings to show up, despite not feeling well. This phenomenon of coming to work but being less productive is better known as presenteeism. In other words, it’s when employees still show up to work, as opposed to absenteeism, but they have lower levels of engagement.
Some of the most common reasons employees engage in presenteeism include fighting seemingly minor health concerns like seasonal allergies, asthma, headaches, back pain, arthritis, and gastrointestinal disorders. Other times it may be more serious, like depression or anxiety. Employees are trying to resolve these ailments independently instead of using their health plan to seek care from a medical professional. Are they ignoring their health?
In 2015, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conducted a study to determine why employees avoid seeking care. Of the participants surveyed, 58.4% of respondents suggested that they didn’t seek health care due to traditional barriers, including high cost (24.1%), no health insurance (8.3%), and time constraints (15.6%).¹ When employees don’t seek care for the ailments that cause presenteeism due to fear of bills, lack of time, and inadequate access to care, businesses see the impacts on their overall productivity and success.
“The illnesses people take with them to work, even though they incur far lower direct costs, usually account for a greater loss in productivity because they are so prevalent, so often go untreated, and typically occur during peak working years. Those indirect costs have long been largely invisible to employers.” - Harvard Business Review ²
In addition to high health care costs, barriers to access to care, time constraints, guilt, and fear are also causing employees to be less present. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of employees who work remotely nationwide has increased. Some remote workers will still work from home even when experiencing ailments in fear that they may be perceived as lazy or be undervalued by their employers, increasing burnout to avoid being penalized.³ They may also feel guilty for taking a much-needed sick day since they work from the comfort of their homes. However, consistent burnout may lead to low morale, lack of perceived self-importance, and employee turnover.
Employees who have less presenteeism could make costly mistakes that may jeopardize their health and the well-being of others, and even stakeholder relationships due to psychological conditions that can impair judgment. As far back as 2004, researchers discovered increasingly reliable ways to measure presenteeism, concluding that it can cost companies billions of dollars annually. So, how canan organization determine if an employee is not productive or simply not feeling well and better support them if it’s the latter? Does your organization have a work culture that contributes to presenteeism? If so, policies that promote this behavior may need to be adjusted or eliminated.
According to NIH, employers are rethinking best practice strategies to keep employees healthy with rising costs of health care, and employers must compensate for poor employee health through workplace health plans because health is a factor in profitability. ¹ Comprehensive wellness initiatives can curb productivity loss and increase employee health and well-being during working hours.
Per the NLM, conditions with the highest estimated daily productivity loss and the annual cost per person were chronic back pain, mental illness, general anxiety, migraines or severe headaches, neck pain, and depression. Allergies and migraines or severe headaches had the highest estimated annual company cost. ⁵ Harvard Business Review roughly estimated that presenteeism costs the U.S. economy upwards of $150 billion a year in lost productivity.
These health issues may be resolved through preventative and continual care. By reducing concern over unexpected expenses and establishing a working environment that encourages employees to take time off to care for their health, employees will be more productive and engaged, reducing presenteeism. It is mutually beneficial for employees and employers to put health first, which is possible by partnering with an insurance plan that promotes employee well-being.
The 411 on Curative’s People-First Health Plan
Curative Insurance Company has launched a new employer-based health plan to address deficiencies in the health care system. Stress-free health care will help businesses stay healthy. Curative’s plan allows employees to invest in their long-term health. Curative has a focus on care, not costs. Healthier workforces don’t just happen by treating what’s wrong—it’s about helping employees gain greater control of health and wellbeing. We offer integrated health care for a resilient workforce.
High-quality care. We’re part of the Austin community with a strong local provider network, including many of the doctors and hospital employees already know and use.
Building community. Plan members get exclusive access to Curative Commons, a next-generation health and wellness center located in the heart of downtown Austin.
Exceptional member-centric experience. We put our members and customers first to help each reach their goals.
Additional health care costs like copays, deductibles, and out-of-pocket maximums disincentivize people from getting the care they need when they need it, resulting in more adverse long-term health outcomes. While these added costs generate significant medical debt for patients, they make very little difference to the bottom line for insurers. Rather than leaving the challenge of navigating and combatting presenteeism and overall health to the employee, comprehensive and whole-person health benefits can have massive benefits for the employee and employer.
When employers focus on managing presenteeism as an essential part of an organization’s health care benefits, they can transform employees’ health from a cost burden to a competitive advantage.
Why should your organization offer Curative?
Curative is the first large-group insurance carrier to successfully enter the Texas market in several decades. The Curative plan will be available to employers with 51 or more employees in the Austin metro area (first in Travis and Williamson counties). Curative will continue to announce new launch cities in other regions of Texas as part of its phased strategic approach, with additional states coming.
With an annual Baseline Visit, Curative plan members will only pay one competitive monthly premium and receive free and unlimited access to a high-quality preferred provider network together. The comprehensive Curative network includes major providers such as the Austin Regional Clinic (ARC), Austin Diagnostic Clinic (ADC), and all of St. David’s facilities, among many others, as well as 24/7/365 access to a local physician in typically under 10 minutes via telemedicine*.
Effective 2023, members will also have access to HCA, Ascension/Seton (with Dell Children’s Hospital), and Baylor Scott White, making Curative’s health insurance plan’s PPO network one of the largest provider networks in the Austin area. In addition, through a relationship with First Health Network™, Curative I will increase access for its members to a growing list of 18 hospitals with more than 9,500 physicians in the greater Austin region. Slated to open in 2023, Curative members also get exclusive access to the Curative Commons, a next-generation health and wellness center located in the heart of downtown Austin at 900 Congress with medical, wellness, community, and fitness resources. Members that use an in-network pharmacy will pay $0 for preferred drugs and a co-pay ($50/$250) for non-preferred drugs. Prescriptions can be delivered as soon as same day. Curative is also developing voluntary programs to help members reach individual goals, whether healthy pregnancy, diabetes, weight management, or other health needs. *Health care provided through the NormanMD network of medical providers. Treatment options and eligibility determinations made by independent licensed medical providers.
Taber, J. M., Leyva, B., & Persoskie, A. (2015). Why do People Avoid Medical Care? A Qualitative Study Using National Data. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 30(3), 290-297. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-014-3089-1
Presenteeism: At work—But out of it. (2004, October 1). Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2004/10/presenteeism-at-work-but-out-of-it
Brosi, P., & Gerpott, F. H. (2022). Stayed at home—But can't stop working despite being ill?! Guilt as a driver of presenteeism at work and home. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 1– 18. https://doi.org/10.1002/job.2601
Allen, D., Hines, E. W., Pazdernik, V., Konecny, L. T., & Breitenbach, E. (2017). Four-year review of presenteeism data among employees of a large United States health care system: a retrospective prevalence study. Human Resources for Health, 16. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12960-018-0321-9
Schultz, A. B., Chen, C. Y., & Edington, D. W. (2009). The cost and impact of health conditions on presenteeism to employers: a review of the literature. PharmacoEconomics, 27(5), 365–378. https://doi.org/10.2165/00019053-200927050-00002
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