Businesses attempt to tackle sick days

Monday, September 19, 2005

It costs money to be sick. It pays for employers to have a wellness plan in place for employees.

According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, on the average in Missouri sick days cost an employer about 1 percent of the total amount budgeted for compensation.

The BLS also reports that 59 percent of Missourians have access to health insurance through their employment, but sick days don't always result in an insurance claim. Sometimes, an employee catches a bug and is not sick enough to go to the doctor, but too sick to come to work.

One problem with that, according to WebMD, is they come to work anyway and spread their germs, but their loss of productivity -- "presenteeism," WebMD calls it -- can cost the company up to 60 percent of health costs.

Christy Sprengel of the Cape Girardeau County Public Health Department said the health department works with employees to promote worksite wellness.

"We give them resources for where to go to get help," she said.

If a business wants to set up a smoking cessation program -- and the effects of smoking do contribute to illness -- then Sprengel can refer the business to a hospital or other organization to accomplish it.

Sprengel provided information from the Wellness Councils of America that claims that "a large portion of illnesses are caused by poor nutrition, lack of exercise and excess stress which results in 30 to 60 percent of health plan costs that could be modified or avoided altogether."

Employers who implement wellness programs, according to the Wellness Councils can expect to save $3 for every dollar invested within 18 months.

One major step to take to keep germs from spreading, say healthcare professionals, is to wash your hands frequently. Another is to get a flu shot.

WebMD offers the following advice to help employees decide whether their symptoms mean they should tough it out at work or stay home and keep their infections to themselves:

* If you're sniffling, but not achy or feverish, it's probably allergies. Go to work.

* Sniffling, achy, tired, and feverish means you're coming down with the cold and will be contagious in those first days. Stay home, drink plenty of fluids and get some rest.

* If you have a fever, you have the flu or a cold and are contagious. Stay home until the fever breaks.

* Fever plus white patches in your throat may be strep throat which is very contagious. See a doctor and stay home.

* Coughing may be from allergies or a cold. If coughing accompanies aches or a fever, stay home. Otherwise go to work.

* Coughing that brings up mucus could be bronchitis or pneumonia. See a doctor.

* Conjunctivitis (pinkeye) is highly contagious. See a doctor for an antibiotic, and don't go to work.

* Stomach viruses produce all kinds of unpleasant symptoms. A virus can take knock you down for several days. Food poisoning can have the same symptoms, but is not contagious. Each requires a liquid or soft diet until the symptoms abate. Rule of thumb: If you can hold food down, its safe to show up for work.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: