Research shows that ill employees who work their normal routines instead of taking care of their health may have a long-term negative impact on workforce productivity. (April 1, 2014)

By Jill Cueni-Cohen, Human Resource Executive Online

As a general rule, Americans are bred to be hard workers, even when they’re sick. However, a recent study out of the San Francisco-based Integrated Benefits Institute shows the short-term productivity gains of working through illness could affect long-term productivity costs.

“The issue becomes problematic when you have people who are saying that when they’re ill, they go to work anyway and work a modified routine,” says Brian Gifford, senior research associate and one of the study’s co-authors.

“We don’t know what their performance is like on the job,” he says, “but when they say they have too much work to do to take time off, [then] people aren’t taking care of their own health. If these are acute episodes related to a chronic illness and they don’t take time off to recuperate, they may be worsening the problem by causing a more serious illness, which could require longer-duration disability leave or even lead to early exit from the workforce.”