May 12th, 2020

The Surprising Hidden Costs of Employees Calling in Sick to Work

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Sick leave is getting a lot of attention in the media right now. It’s a vital workplace service that keeps businesses running smoothly and safely, especially during times like these. Gone are the tropes of lazy employees calling in sick to work for a few extra hours of shuteye; now, sick days are serious business.


They’re also expensive.

According to the American Institute of Stress, 1 million employees are calling in sick to work every day. And over 200 million sick days each year are spent on preventable mental health issues, like work-related stress, anxiety, and depression. 

The keyword here is preventable; all of those sick days could be eliminated with some changes to how we treat work and the people who do it. And in doing so, your company could wipe all those expenses—the insurance claims, the sick pay, and the lost productivity—from your ledger, saving you money.

When Calling in Sick to Work Is a Good Thing

It might seem like madness to suggest reducing the number of sick days your employees take in the middle of a pandemic. So, let’s take a moment to clarify; we are not suggesting forcing employees to work when they are sick. It is the most important it has ever been that we all take especially good care of our health, not just for ourselves, but for everyone around us. Now is not the time to be choosy about calling in sick to work. If you are unwell, stay home.

Our focus here is on preventable sick days. Sick days that come as a result of too much workplace stress and the health complications resulting from that stress. Depression, anxiety, and hypertension are just a few examples. But it’s also worth noting that workplace stress can negatively affect your immune system, which can increase your chance of contracting infectious diseases. 

In other words, this isn’t about writing off all sick days as unnecessary expenses. Rather, it’s about getting the most bang out of your buck from those sick days by ensuring your workforce is so healthy that they rarely need to use them!

The Hidden Costs of Sick Days

Imagine if all of your employees each periodically took 600 dollars out of the company budget and simply threw it away. That’s a fire you’d want to put out quickly! Of course, this is an extreme analogy, but preventable sick days cost businesses an average of 600 dollars per employee per day. 

And that’s just capital; what about the time lost while your employees are home recovering? What about the additional stress the rest of your team might face if they have to take on the ill employee’s duties to keep up with deadlines? They may soon need time off to recuperate as well, which will leave you with fewer hands and emptier pockets.

Unless, of course, you work to prevent these costs in the first place.

How? By investing in workplace wellness and putting your employees’ health needs first.

Boost Workplace Wellness to Boost Your Budget

When you get ahead of workplace stress, you help prevent a laundry list of long-term health issues for you and your workers, which can save you money on sick leave. But while saving money is nice, there’s more to it than that; you also help build a workplace culture of wellness and compassion, where employees feel like they matter. And when employees feel like they matter, they work harder, produce more, and stick around longer. 

But how exactly do you “invest in your employees’ health” or “put wellness first”? We have a few suggestions.

Host Workplace Wellness Challenges

Who can walk the most steps in a week? Which department can pack the most colorful, whole-foods-only lunch? How many meetings can your company replace with walking meetings? Find ways to turn wellness into a game and everyone will want to play!

Make Eating Healthy Easy

If your company has a cafeteria or other communal eating area, highlight the healthiest snacks and drinks you have. You don’t have to actually get rid of the unhealthy stuff; just bury it behind the bottled water and fresh fruit. People tend to make the healthy choice when it’s the easier choice.

Ask Your Workers What They Need

No two employees will have the same needs and no wellness program should be one-size-fits-all. Check in with your employees to see how they are and what would benefit them. And don’t just ask; be prepared to deliver, too, or at least to try.

Get Fabulous for Work

All of this sounds like a lot, right? You have a company to run, after all! So why not entrust some health and wellness experts to do the heavy lifting for you? Fabulous for Work can help your employees meet their personal and professional goals with tailor-fit challenges designed with their individual needs in mind while also keeping them tuned into the wellness progress of the whole company. You can host challenges, get feedback and progress reports, and build life-changing habits with Apple’s Best Self-Care App of 2019.

Interested? Click here or go to to get in touch today!