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  • Supportive Leadership Linked to Lower Absenteeism/Presenteeism

    Training in Supportive Behaviors Might Help Avoid Productivity Losses

    More supportive leadership behaviors (SLB) in the workplace are associated with lower productivity losses due to absenteeism and presenteeism, reports a study in the February Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM).

    Burkhardt Schmidt, PhD, of Hochschule für Internationales Management, Germany, and colleagues analyzed the relationship between SLB and absenteeism and presenteeism (going to work despite feeling sick) in a sample of more than 17,000 industrial workers. Supportive leadership behavior — defined as "the extent to which leaders support employees through active involvement in resolving difficult situations and being open, honest, and fair in their interactions" — was assessed on a four-item questionnaire.

    Employees with high levels of perceived SLB had significantly fewer days of absenteeism and presenteeism. For each one-point increase on a 20-point SLB scale, absenteeism and presenteeism both decreased by about one-third of a day. The effects were lower after adjustment for lifestyle factors and depressive symptoms.

    Economic models suggested that higher scores for SLB were related to lower costs for lost productivity. Depending on the model used, annual costs per capita were €535 to €1,675 (approximately $695 to $2,170) lower for companies with high SLB scores, compared to those with low SLB scores. For presenteeism, the difference ranged from €64 to €434 (approximately $85 to $560) per worker per year. (Costs are in 2011 currency values.)

    The results add to previous evidence that SLB may be an "upstream determinant of workforce health and productivity." The study is the first to estimate the productivity costs associated with unsupportive leadership.

    "Supportive leadership behavior has the potential to reduce absenteeism, presenteeism, and associated costs," Dr. Schmidt and coauthors conclude. They suggest that providing supervisors with training in supportive leadership might contribute to workforce health, productivity, and efficiency.

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    Citation — Schmid JA, Jarczok MN, Sonntag D, Herr RM, Fischer JE, Schmidt, B. Associations between supportive leadership behavior and the costs of absenteeism and presenteeism: an epidemiological and economic approach. J Occup Environ Med. 2017;59(2):141-7.

    About the Author — Dr. Schmidt may be contacted for interviews at b.schmidt@himh.de.

    About ACOEM — ACOEM (www.acoem.org), an international society of 4,500 occupational physicians and other health care professionals, provides leadership to promote optimal health and safety of workers, workplaces, and environments.

    About the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine — The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (www.joem.org) is the official journal of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Edited to serve as a guide for physicians, nurses, and researchers, the clinically oriented research articles are an excellent source for new ideas, concepts, techniques, and procedures that can be readily applied in the industrial or commercial employment setting.