Easy-access medications boost productivity

Providing ibuprofen keeps workers on the job

Looking for a simple way to help employers reduce lost work days? Suggest they invest in over-the-counter (OTC) medications. A recent study by researchers at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor found that 85% of hourly workers surveyed reported staying on the job when they had easy access in the workplace to OTC medications such as aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, cold/cough preparations, antacids, and skin ointments. Workers in the study reported that the medications reduced their symptoms enough that they could stay on the job and finish their shifts.

The study also found that workers frequently experience a variety of treatable symptoms while on the job. More than 73% reported that they regularly experienced headaches, colds, and sinus problems at work. Nearly 100% of study participants reported that access to medications helped them feel well enough to complete their shifts.

Small investment with a large return’

"We now have data that underscore just how valuable this is in keeping workers on the job and preserving productivity," notes study author Yvonne Abdoo, RN, PhD. "While this study involved a random sample of hourly workers at a manufacturing plant, it has implications for employers of all types. On-site health services, such as medications, appear to be a small investment with a large return."

"Every day I meet with employees suffering from colds, headaches, and similar ailments," adds Debbie Woodruff, RN, an occupational health nurse with Baxter Healthcare in Tampa, FL. "Although some people should go home, many with milder symptoms don’t want to," she notes. "In these cases, I offer them various medications to provide relief, so they can be comfortable and do their jobs."