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The Financial Cost Of Employee Sickness

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Ethan Quant. Photo: Shawn Hanna/Tribune Staff

Health coach Ethan Quant, of Elite Wellness Solutions, has succeeded in his weight loss journey and now wants to share his methods with the Bahamas in an effort to foster a culture of wellness and conquer the obesity epidemic.

Year after year companies here in the Bahamas spend millions of dollars on healthcare for employees. The fact is that this expense continues to rise as the Bahamian workforce gets more and more unhealthy; a frightening epidemic.

Studies show that around 90 percent of the Bahamian workforce is either overweight or obese and is plagued with non-communicable diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and some forms of cancer, resulting from unhealthy lifestyles.

We know that an unhealthy workforce reduces productivity, increases absenteeism and presenteeism, and negatively impacts employee engagement.

Most companies use the healthcare claims data as the primary indicator of how much it costs them to have an unhealthy staff population. They don’t even stop to think of the financial cost caused by employee sickness as it relates to absenteeism and presenteeism.

For the purpose of this article we define absenteeism as employees missing work due to sickness and presenteeism as employees coming to work even though they are sick.

A growing body of research is now confirming what we have known for years, that sick employees miss work and cost the company money. But even more disturbing is the fact that presenteeism costs companies up to 10 times more than absenteeism.

There are very little if any statistics on the cost of employee sickness here in the Bahamas. But here are some US stats, and since our country actually has a higher obesity rating than the US we can gain an appreciation for the burden unhealthy employees place on companies.

Each year, productivity losses because of missed work cost employers $1,685.00 per employee. So for the average company here in the Bahamas with 150 to 200 employees that means they are losing $252,750.00 to $337,000.00 per year as a result of unhealthy employees missing work.

As disturbing as these numbers are, presenteeism can cost employers up to 10 times more, that’s $2.5 million to $3.5 million every year. Think about it, how many times has your sick co-worker come into work and made you or another co-worker sick. I know when I was at the bank it happened all of the time. The productivity level of the employee is less because they are sick, and if they work with a team then that team’s productivity is less, or then someone else on the team has to pick up the slack of the sick employee, thus resulting in an even heavier workload for the other employees.

The ripple effects of absenteeism and presenteeism are far reaching and are too many to address in this article, however, we know that employers need to make employee health and well-being a priority. Some 56 percent of professionals in the US feel that their employer does not do enough to support their health and well-being. I do believe that this number is much higher here in the Bahamas, as I have personally had conversations with company executives who take the position that employee health and well-being is the responsibility of the employee. They look at employee wellness programming as an unnecessary expense.

When you look at the rising cost of healthcare, coupled with the financial cost absenteeism and presenteeism, we see that not only is effective employee wellness programming needed, but it should be integrated into the overall business strategy of the company.

As a health and lifestyle coach I work with people all the time who say that they can’t do what’s needed to start living healthier because they have demanding, stressful jobs with heavy workloads and just don’t have the time. There is no work-life balance.

As a corporate wellness specialist I work with companies who want to build a culture of wellness within their organisations. I firmly believe that companies that demand so much from employees day in and day out do have a responsibility to make the health and well-being of their employees a priority.

• Can your company do more to support your health and well-being?

• Does your company have employee wellness programming?

• How effective is it?

If you want to learn more about how much employee sickness is costing your company, or about effective employee wellness programming, feel free to reach out to me directly.

• If you need help navigating any part of your health, wellness and fitness process, you can contact Ethan Quant at ethan@elite-wellnesssolutions.com or on Instagram at @ethanquant.

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