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Over sixty percent of workers go to work sick


Presenterism at work can have far-reaching consequences

Two thirds of all employees go to work sick. This emerges from a representative survey commissioned by the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB). According to the survey, 67 percent of respondents go to work despite illness. Almost every second employee does more than one week of “sick work” per year. In the case of more than ten percent, it was even three weeks or more that the workers worked on sick. For most of them there is certainly a well-intentioned will, the idea of ​​securing jobs and a high degree of personal responsibility, but this presentism can have negative consequences for the employer and the employees.

In 2016 the “DGB Good Work Index” had already published an investigation on the subject of “presentism”. The trend determined at that time was confirmed again in the current survey. However, the self-imposed presence requirement of employees can have health consequences for employees as well as economic consequences for employers.

What is presentism?

Presentism in occupational psychology and occupational medicine describes the behavior of workers who appear in the workplace even though they are sick. This means that employees accept reduced work productivity, possible long-term consequences from poorly curing the illness, an increased risk of infecting other people and an increased error and accident rate. The Federal Office for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) warns in a report that presenteeism can have long-term negative consequences for the health of those affected.

Presentism is expensive

Given the high numbers, many workers are unaware that their presence in the event of illness can be expensive for the company. According to estimates based on a study commissioned by the Felix Burda Foundation, an employee with flu will cost the company an average of 1200 euros per year if he stays at home. However, if the employee comes to work sick, the costs will double on average. If the worker also infects colleagues, this value is multiplied.

American studies come to similar results

A US study by Cornell University shows that productivity losses from employees who appear sick at work are even three times higher than those caused by employees who stay at home due to illness. According to the study, preventive measures cost US companies around $ 180 billion a year.

Why do so many workers go to work sick?

According to BauA, a complex network of personal, work-related and social factors is responsible for the decision to go to work despite an illness. Accordingly, there are personal influencing factors such as age and gender, work and organizational factors such as work stress and corporate culture as well as environmental factors such as job insecurity. The BAuA's studies showed that younger workers between the ages of 16 and 30 go to work more often than older workers. In the sexes, it is women who struggle to work more often than men. (vb)

Author and source information


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