Aside from the humanitarian aspects, I have personally experienced and witnessed that unhealthy employees cost a company far more than healthy ones do. It has been estimated that unhealthy staff costs billions of dollars each year for businesses, related to:
- Costly temporary staff replacements;
- Backlogged work;
- Ineffective workflows that create business disruptions;
- Increased heath care premium costs; and
- General lower productivity.
Lessening Stress Promotes Healthy Staff
I also noticed that as a healthy worker, I was far more productive than when I was ill. Nearly every sickness I ever had was related in some way to the often needless stress from:
- Lack of organization;
- Unrealistic workloads;
- Being continually exposed to employees who were sick.
Doctors have recognized how stress plays a large factor in illness. Stressed out, overworked staff will spend more time at the doctor’s office which drive up health care costs. Additionally, unhealthy workers greatly contribute to business disruptions.
Many European businesses have been way ahead of the U.S. when it comes to the overall treatment of their employees. For example, when I worked with a bank that was based in Amsterdam, I was shocked to learn of the various health-related perks:
- 100% paid health care plan;
- Fully paid gym memberships;
- Three weeks of paid time off for vacation immediately;
- Unlimited, paid sick time;
- Doctor visits counted as paid sick time;
- Twelve days of personal time;
- Every major holiday off;
- Extra bank and European holidays; and
- Bonuses paid in cash or time off.
I had thought that allowing employees to take unlimited sick time would encourage abusing this privilege. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Because I knew that I would be covered financially should I become ill, I found that I almost never needed to take a sick day off. Of course, part of the reason that I stayed so healthy was probably due also to:
- Realistic workloads;
- Positive, thoughtful work environments;
- Communicative management; and
- Less chance of contracting an illness, since people stayed home when they were ill.
Rarely did anyone in the office need more than a few hours to a day or two. Usually, “sick time” was used to go to the regular check-ups that the company also encouraged that each employee take advantage of, through its fully paid, no-co pay health plan.
What’s more, I was never made to feel badly about visiting the doctor or staying home if necessary. Rather, I was encouraged to do so. This company understood that having sick employees in the office was not good for business. Illnesses are spread and there is nothing productive about insisting that employees who are sick come to work. For this reason, I now choose workplaces not entirely by compensation, but by the culture of overall health that they adopt.