Pain Hurts Employees at Work and at Home
Presenteeism' Costs Employers More Than Disability, Absenteeism
WebMD News Archive
'Presenteeism' Costs Employers Most
Presenteeism is defined as reduced performance while at work,
which is commonly caused by pain-related conditions, such as headache,
arthritis, and back pain.
In this study, researchers measured the impact of impaired work
performance based on how often the 28,902 working adults surveyed said they did
any of following due to a painful condition in the past two weeks:
- Took longer to start working after arriving at work
- Lost concentration
- Repeated a job
- Worked more slowly than usual
- Felt fatigued at work
- Did nothing at all at work
The study showed that more than three-fourths of the $61
billion in pain-related losses in productive time occurred at work as a result
of this sort of behavior rather than work absence.
Researchers found that 13% of the total workforce experienced a
loss in productive time during a two-week period due to a common pain
condition. Headache was the frequently cited cause of lost work time (5.4%),
followed by back pain (3.2%), arthritis pain (2%) and other musculoskeletal
Workers who had a headache lost an average of 3.5 hours per
week of productive time at work, while workers who suffered from back or
arthritis pain lost an average of 5.2 hours per week.
Researchers also found that lost productivity due to pain
conditions did not differ much by age, sex, or type of occupation. But the
largest differences were seen in education levels with those with lower
education suffering more from pain at work.
Putting Pain at Work on Employer's Radars
Researchers say this study is one the first to quantify the
effects of pain on lost productivity at work, and it may help employers make
more effective use of their health-care dollars.
"One thing that's clear about pain conditions is that a
minority of individuals account for the majority of lost time," says
The study showed that 5% of workers accounted for 29% of the
lost productive time, and about a third accounted for three-fourths of the lost
"That is important for employers to understand because that
subgroup that's losing most of the time is a good target for education and
intervention," says Stewart.