Do you give presenteeism the attention it deserves?

Get an 'immediate impact on productivity'

The number of days an employee is absent and worker's compensation costs are fairly black-and-white metrics. But what about presenteeism, when employees are at work, but not optimally productive?

"Presenteeism is typically the most significant component of the health-related productivity loss experienced by employers," says Ron Loeppke, MD, MPH, director of health and productivity strategy for Alere Medical, a Reno, NV-based consulting company that helps patients with chronic illnesses manage their conditions. "Unfortunately, it is not as easily measured as the time a worker is absent from the workplace. Therefore, it is often overlooked as a metric."

Assessing presenteeism can give you a valuable piece of information: risk factors that are most closely linked with productivity. Patti Clavier, BSN, RN, COHN-S, manager of Chandler, AZ-based Intel Corp.'s Global Health for Life Wellness Program, says, "Interventional programs can be put in place to support employees. Improving these risk factors can have an immediate impact on productivity."

Millions of workers have work disabilities related to chronic health conditions or are at risk for this, says Karen Griffith, global health, well-being and productivity senior program manager at Intel in Colorado Springs, CO. "There are both economic and social imperatives for sustaining the employability and productivity of these individuals."

Data IDs need for services

At Intel, the Work Limitations Questionnaire is used to capture data on presenteeism.

The questionnaire measures the degree to which employees are experiencing limitations on the job due to their health problems, and it measures health-related productivity loss due to employees' physical or mental health problems.

"We are in our third year of analysis," says Clavier. "Work limitation rates provide important data about the economic burden of illness."

Intel gives the data to Mayo Clinic Health Solutions for analysis and receives their recommendations based on risk factors that were identified. Nutrition was identified as a top risk factor affecting presenteeism, so additional weight management programs were added at the company's major sites.

The questions measure on the job disability and productivity loss only over the previous two weeks, to maximize accuracy of the respondents' memory. It covers four domains of work: time management and performance of physical, mental-interpersonal, and output demands. Employees are asked to rate their level of difficulty or ability to perform specific job demands.

"Intel plans to continue the year-to-year analysis, focusing program support on risk areas," says Griffith. "Improving these risk factors may have more of an immediate impact on productivity than other risk factors."

Intel will need at least another year of data to begin its analysis against the baseline year, says Clavier, but preliminary results are positive. There is a cohort group of 5,400 which shows a 17% movement out of high risk — for example, someone who is overweight who moves into an ideal weight category. "This will likely have a positive impact on presenteeism," says Clavier.

Intel plans to do the presenteeism analysis yearly.  The next analysis will occur in the fourth quarter of this year, to confirm that positive movement out of high risk is reducing presenteeism. Aggregate risk data is being analyzed within Intel's data warehouse.

"This is a baseline year, so the coming years will be analyzed for the actual cost savings for those participating in the wellness program," says Clavier.


For more information on presenteeism, contact:

  • Patti Clavier, BSN, RN, COHN-S, Manager, Global Health for Life Wellness Program, Intel, Colorado Springs, CO. Phone: (719) 273-1027. E-mail:
  • Joseph Fortuna, MD, Co-Chair, Health Steering Committee, Automotive Industry Action Group. E-mail:
  • Karen Griffith, Global Health, Well-being, and Productivity Senior Program Manager, Intel Corp., Chandler, AZ. Phone: (480) 715-8691. E-mail:
  • Ron Loeppke, MD, MPH, Director, Health and Productivity Strategy, Alere Medical. Phone: (615) 289-5393. E-mail: