Monday, January 10, 2005

Pass the Tissues

On the heels of the flu vaccine shortage, and just in time for the next wave of heavy rain from the Pineapple Express, the LA Times reports on the increasing number of sick employees showing up to work, complete with symptoms, and the less-than-beneficial rewards this accrues to their employer:

But when sick workers come to work, it's no bargain for employers. Presenteeism (the opposite of absenteeism) costs companies as much as $150 billion in lost productivity, higher healthcare expenses and cascading absences due to contagion, according to a recent report in the Harvard Business Review.

But why should sick employees show up in the first place if this penalizes productivity in the long-term? Again, managerial myopia shows all the cards, creating a system of reward and punishment that balances the accounting bottom line in the short-term, but causes instability and ultimately weakens human resources of the firm in the long-term:

In recent years, the number of workers with no paid sick leave has increased. Large employers have been trimming sick days, or collapsing them, along with workers' vacation time and personal days, into a single pool of paid time off. And 91% of large employers surveyed recently said they sought to control absenteeism by penalizing workers who overuse their sick days , either by docking their pay or by entering a negative report in their personnel files.

All these developments, say experts, encourage sick workers to come to work anyway, no matter how many clients, customers or co-workers they infect and no matter how poorly they work.

And keeping on the illness theme, the Washington Post reports that a 7th Grade teacher with cancer has been forced to resign because she used up all her sick days - and this in a district hurting for qualified teachers:

Critics said Yowell's treatment is a reflection of rigid leave policies heartlessly applied, and they warned that it could hurt efforts to hire top talent in the Washington region's highly competitive market for teachers. School officials said the uniform application of personnel rules is a cornerstone of management that benefits the system and its students.....

She began taking days off for preliminary treatment. Once she used up the 10 annual sick days allotted to teachers in her position, as well as three personal days, school officials told her she'd be asked to resign, she said.

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