Friday, January 26, 2007

Present and Accounted For

According to several studies presenteeism is costing companies billions with a b. What is presenteeism? When employees show up for work even though they are ill, contagious, and otherwise unpleasant to be around because they're sick, all because they can't or won't use sick time to stay home and get better, that's presenteeism.

In the remote work environment this is not such a problem, of course. If I go to work sick, the only one I'm hurting is me, and if my colleagues in the Real Office are sick, what do I care? But the trend is one that I find disturbing. Many workplaces have "frequency" policies that punish people who take several sick days off in a row and make it more difficult to take leave the more leave you take -- even if it is leave that you are entitled to.

Okay, and before you get in my grill about "entitled" -- sick leave is an employee benefit that benefits the employer too. Your paycheck is an entitlement, too: you're entitled to have them pay you the agreed amount. Sure, we all know people who take a sick day every month whether they're sick or not, and frankly I don't have a problem with that. I worry that someday those folks will actually be sick (or have a baby, or a sick kid, or an ailing parent) and they'll be sorry they burned those sick days, but that is a judgement call.

Even worse than frequency policies are leave pools, fabulous schemes in which your vacation, sick, and personal leave is just one big puddle. If you're out of the office, it counts against that pool, whether you're island hopping or driving the porcelain schoolbus (a true busman's holiday if ever there was one). These kinds of policies virtually guarantee that people are going to come in sick so they have a few days left at the end of the year to take a small trip with their families.

I think people should apply the daycare standard for health: if you have a fever stay home. Vomiting? Seeya (wouldn't want to be ya). Supperating flesh wounds? Get on antibiotics and get the pus situation under control and call us. Pinkeye? Don't even look at me.

Get outta here!

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