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Presenteeism and the Working Family Caregiver

Personal Health Issues or Family Caregiving can be costly for Employers

Personal Health Issues or Family Caregiving can be costly for Employers

Presenteeism is a term that is used with human performance measurement by human resources and organizational leaders. It is the enemy of highly functioning teams.  Presenteeism is described as being present at work but not being productive due to mental or physical health reasons.  This can take the form for excessive time on the phone or internet usage related to non-work related matters, extended or more frequent breaks, incessant conversations with or withdrawing from co-workers, more frequent mistakes, and general lack of production, all resulting in on-the-job productivity losses.   Burning time and the employer’s money.

We’re all guilty of presenteeism from time to time.  However, it becomes a chronic situation with employees who have chronic health problems and employees with heavy family caregiving responsibilities. It is one culprit that claims a portion of the thirty-three billion dollars in revenue lost by U.S. employers due to family caregiving.  This loss of revenue is not just the hourly rate the employees earn, but much more.

The role of the working family caregiver has several intrinsic factors that are detrimental to the employee’s mental and physical health.  Top diseases identified for working family caregives through health claims data  are depression, depression with related cardiovascular conditions and/or diabetes, hypertension, severe cardiovascular conditions (hypertension and/or coronary artery disease).  In most cases, depression was the primary symptom, which led to other physical diseases manifesting.

Economic and social costs related to family caregiving duties add additional weight to already stressful times.  Seventy percent of working caregivers suffer work-related difficulties due to their dual roles.  Adult children 50+ who work and provide care to a parent are more likely to have fair or poor health themselves.  Thoughts of managing arrangements and care for their loved ones compete with thoughts of how to best do their jobs.

The average working family caregiver spends about 15 to 20 unpaid hours per week on family caregiving duties:  i.e. helping them get dressed, food preparation, shopping, cleaning the house, paying bills, arranging for appointments, negotiating with creditors and health plans, etc.  When these 15 to 20 hours of unpaid work intrude on their working hours, that is a form of presenteeism.

For example, Kay is at work.  She calls her mother’s health plan during her morning break to get some information about a claim that was denied.  She ends up on the phone for 45 minutes trying to find a solution to the matter.  Her break was 15 minutes.  Thirty minutes of Kay’s 45 minute phone call were during working hours, while the work on her desk waited.

Unlike the increases seen with health claims and health insurance costs, presenteeism hits employers’ bottom line covertly; i.e.  delayed customer response time, delayed or incorrect billing and account reconciliations, slower sales operations, and  deflated team morale.  Response time, billing, sales delivery/performance, and team synergy are factors that contribute to the success or failure of your company/organization.  It is to the employers’ advantage to help employees get or remain healthy, and to provide support for family caregivers so they can be present and performing their duties.

Another form of presenteeism is the employee who has a bad cold or the flu, but feels like they must go to work.  They bring a burdensome cost to operations.  They dutifully come to work, do their best, but perform at a lower  level due to illness, and contaminate all around them.  A few days later, others in that area come down with the condition.  Now, where is the team’s productivity?

Some of the common options employers offer to address presenteeism are paid and unpaid leave-aka Personal Time Off, paid vacation, sick leave, flex time, counselors for assisted living and nursing homes, and access to networks of support groups.    The options that reduced workers’ time away from work most were paid vacation, counselors for assisted living and nursing home, and access to networks of support or support groups.

IBCS is a healthcare advocacy firm that offers work-life support for employers who want to support employees going through personal health challenges within their existing staff, and those that are working through family caregiving challenges, but need assistance balancing work and life.   IBCS can also provide on-site or off site counselors to assist workers with personal health or cargiving – e.g. helping seniors age in place, or find the appropriate assisted living or nursing home community. Our community relationships provide us with a network of support for employers in the DC metro area.

For more information on options to reduce presenteeism for you or your organization, see the IBCS web site at  You can also contact IBCS at or call us at 240.724.7624 for additional information.


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About Laurel Jones

Laurel Jones is a Health care Advocate and founder of IBCS-the Healthcare Advocacy Firm, where they provide information, connections, and eldercare consultation for individuals, families, and employer groups in the DC metro. She holds an MBA from Johns Hopkins University, and a BS from Columbia Union College, now named Washington Adventist University. She's worked with health insurance plans, hospital systems, and managed care organizations for more than 25 years. She works with her clients as a consultant, to help them navigate the health care system, and arrange for any day-to-day support they may need to stay safe and secure in their environment. She also helps her clients find the right community for their elderly and frail loved ones. Laurel sees her work as a community service. You can reach Laurel Jones at or call her at 240.724.7624 to get additional information. You can also check the Resources link on the website at to get additional information.


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