The New Productivity Gap?
Cigna Study Finds Americans Taking "Sick Days" at Work
BLOOMFIELD, Conn., September 03, 2008 - A recent Cigna survey, conducted as part of the company's ongoing research into health and well-being in America, reveals that many U.S. workers say that health and personal matters often keep them from being fully focused while on the job.1 In fact, on average, people admitted to spending between 2 ½ and five hours per week resolving personal issues while at work, spiking during particularly stressful or eventful weeks.
According to the survey results, nearly half of U.S. workers - 46 percent - were absent at least once in the past six months, and during that time they missed work an average of three days. But the survey also shows that presenteeism - a term that describes the phenomenon of employees being physically present at work, but not performing their duties at full capacity due to illness and various distractions - is widespread in the workplace, perhaps more than most people realize.
About three-fifths (61 percent) of U.S. workers reported for duty while they were sick or coping with family and personal matters, according to survey responses. On average, they did this nearly seven days in the last six months - more than twice as often as they missed work.
"The survey demonstrates very clearly what every employee knows - that life impacts work and work impacts life," said Jodi Prohofsky, senior vice president of operations for Cigna's health solutions unit. "The challenge for employers is to find ways to reduce that impact by offering workplace programs focused on employee health and well-being, and then encourage their employees to use these programs. It's important for employers to create a culture of wellness in the workplace so that every employee has the opportunity to achieve his or her full health and productivity."
Employees themselves realize that presenteeism affects the workplace. Sixty-two percent said they were less productive on those days they came to work too distracted to perform their best, and of those, the majority - 61 percent - said they thought their co-workers noticed their sagging productivity, and 75 percent admitted that their inability to perform their best concerned them.
While the most common reason cited for being absent was ordinary illness, such as a cold or the flu2, a significant number of employees - 22 percent - said they missed work for family-related reasons, such as caring for a sick child or another family member, or coping with a variety of family-related issues such as finding child care.
Why do so many people go to work when they are sick or distracted? Economic considerations certainly play a big role, with 25 percent saying they needed the money, and smaller percentages of people saying they did not have enough or any sick leave or vacation days. But 38 percent said they went to work on those days out of a sense of duty3. Common responses were that the company needed them, they didn't want to burden their co-workers by being absent, they had a deadline to meet, or they didn't want to seem uncommitted.
"These survey results highlight the stress that many American workers feel, which not only affects their performance on the job, but over the long term can also affect their mental health and overall sense of well-being," Prohofsky noted. "Employers can help their employees and also improve productivity by offering flexible work schedules and providing wellness and employee assistance programs that can help people improve health, establish a work-life balance and cope with the many pressures they face in their daily lives."
"There are so many factors that can contribute to absence and productivity," says Katie Dunnington, assistant vice president of Wellness, Absence & Productivity for Cigna. "In fact, in an earlier Cigna study we found that Family Medical Leave (FML) events are an indicator of future short-term disability claims. It's just another example of how understanding the drivers of absence can help organizations better accommodate their employees' needs and deliver meaningful help."
Cigna's survey also examined sleep habits and their impact on productivity as an aspect of health and well-being. Two-thirds of those surveyed reported they don't get enough sleep, and 45 percent said that a lack of sleep has had an impact on their work performance.
Of those saying that a lack of sleep affected them at work, 50 percent said they were less productive, 42 percent said they were unable to focus, 40 percent put things off to another day and 28 percent said they made mistakes.4 And 12 percent even said they fell asleep on the job.
What are people doing to stay alert and awake on the job? Most people said they drink caffeinated beverages (57 percent) or plenty of water (50 percent). Forty-four percent said they listen to music, while 41 percent said they take walks, and 39 percent said that stretching helps, while 20 percent said they take a nap to stay refreshed.5
Cigna offers a number of programs to help people improve their health and well-being, including online coaching programs for sleep and stress management. More information about these programs is available in the Cigna newsroom at press_kit_index.cfm.
About the Survey
The survey on absenteeism and presenteeism, conducted by TSC, a division of Yankelovich, Inc., consisted of telephone interviews with 1,149 part-time or full-time employed individuals 18 years of age or older, living in private households in the continental United States. Interviews took place in May 2008, and of those interviewed, 61 percent described themselves as white collar, 25 percent blue collar and 12 percent service workers, with two percent not reporting employment type. Data are weighted by age, gender, geographic region, and race to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the population. The sampling error for this study is +/- 2.9 percent.
Cigna (NYSE: CI) provides employers with benefits, expertise and services that improve the health, well-being and productivity of their employees. With approximately 47 million covered lives in the United States and around the world, Cigna's operating subsidiaries offer a full portfolio of medical, dental, behavioral health, pharmacy and vision care benefits and group life, accident and disability insurance. For more information, visit www.cigna.com.
1 "Absenteeism and Presenteeism," prepared for Cigna by TSC, a division of Yankelovich, May 2008.
2 Multiple responses allowed.
3 Multiple responses allowed.
4 Multiple responses allowed.
5 Multiple responses allowed.
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