Promoting workplace wellness is far more important than making sure that all of your employees are present and accounted for all the time. In fact, a sick employee may think that he’s helping by forcing himself to come to work, but he’s actually costing your business. Not only is he not being very productive when he feels terrible, but he’s spreading his germs and potentially making everyone else sick, too. He may also be making his illness last longer by working instead of resting or seeing a doctor.

One issue you may see is that employees are afraid to take sick days because they’re worried that they’ll be viewed as unreliable or that important deadlines will be missed. You might find that your business needs to create a shift in thinking across all levels to understand the true benefits of providing and taking sick days.

The Downside of Presenteeism

“Presenteeism” is the phenomenon of employees coming to work even when they’re sick, and it’s costing businesses huge amounts of money. Presenteeism can occur because employees do not have adequate sick days, because they want to save their sick days to use for personal reasons, or because they fear the repercussions of missing work. For example, during the height of the swine flu scare in 2009, 8 million employees came to work sick. According to The Center for Working Families, this resulted in 7 million more people getting infected. Here are a few more unpleasant facts concerning presenteeism:

As an employer, consider encouraging your employees to take sick days if they’re ill, especially if they might make other people around them sick, too. Let them know that they’re not at risk of being fired just because they’re sick. On average, employees don’t take advantage of sick days and tend to only take about half of them, according to The Center for Working Families. If you encourage employees to take sick days and promote workplace wellness, you will improve morale, and you may reduce overall medical spending and increase productivity and profits.

Stephanie Dwilson has extensive experience providing expertise on topics including health, law and marketing. She’s a science journalist published by Fox News, a marketing expert and an attorney with expertise in personal injury law. She’s also a small business expert featured by Businessweek and Millionaire Blueprints magazine and has worked as a marketing consultant for ministries and as a PR lead for one of the largest churches in America.