Coming In Sick Versus Calling Out Sick: How Different Cities Rate

American workers are notoriously bad at taking sick days when they need one—a fact that’s been shown to actually decrease productivity across the board. A new study reveals that the likelihood of a worker coming in while unwell can actually be tracked geographically, creating data that helps companies build location-based strategies to keep employees healthier. With coronavirus taking its toll worldwide, such insight on health habits has taken on new significance.

Last October, Global staffing firm Accountemps surveyed 2,800 office workers in 28 US cities and discovered that 90 percent admit to at least sometimes clocking in while afflicted with cold or flu symptoms.

Those numbers spiked in certain cities. In Austin, Chicago, and Cincinnati, 93 percent of employees reported showing up while under the weather. Respondents in Charlotte and Miami topped the chart, with 96 percent reporting for duty while in poor health.

In cities like New York, an overwhelming workload was cited as the primary reason for still coming in, while in places like Phoenix, pressure from the boss was a factor. Those differences in motivation could be useful to managers in understanding how to respond.

HR executives are already using location intelligence to aid decision-making and spot or forecast patterns in employee habits. Location-based data on productivity and wellness can give HR departments an edge in assessing where and how to publicize sick leave policies, share educational materials, or allocate resources like temp workers.

It’s a variable that in the past might have been overlooked or noted only anecdotally. With the analytic power of a geographic information system (GIS), productivity and wellness data can be measured, mapped, and analyzed to furnish insights for running a smarter business.

A Location-Based Strategy for Your Workforce

While location intelligence is often used to guide a business’s work in the marketplace, from improving supply chains to choosing new store sites, more and more executives are discovering its potential to help them better understand the workforce.

For example, multinational companies have access to location data that can aid recruiting and hiring practices in various countries and regions. The 2019 Universum survey revealed that for college graduates entering the job market, priorities not only differed from the previous generation (Millennials) but also often varied widely depending on the nationality of the respondent.

Students in Russia stood out for their interest in being competitively or intellectually challenged by a job—a fact that businesses looking to hire young Russian engineers could emphasize in interviews or marketing materials. By comparison, India was the only nation to highlight being a technical or functional expert as of top importance, while South Koreans expressed desire for professional autonomy and independence. Companies that don’t take this kind of location data into account risk wasting resources and pursuing dead ends.

Other companies are combining IoT technology with location intelligence to build smart workplaces, making it easier to streamline work orders, predict when a piece of equipment will fail, and match local mentors with new employees. Even the layout of an office can be optimized, using sensors to show how many employees are occupying shared workspaces and how space usage changes on certain days.

In short, HR executives are beginning to find as much value in location intelligence as executives overseeing market planning, supply chain management, and risk analysis.

Seeing New Patterns with Data

Business leaders building the future recognize the importance of making decisions supported by data. But in an age where information is often measured in terabytes, sometimes it’s the small details—extracted from previously overlooked or unseen variables—that decision-makers can capitalize on to the greatest and most immediate effect. A company that can leverage location intelligence to figure out why its Miami office always seems to have lingering sickness issues is one that knows the power of data, big or small.

About the author

Christopher Ross is a journalist with over a decade of experience contributing to national publications. He has written for the Wall Street Journal Magazine, Quartz, Men’s Journal, and CNN, covering business and culture with a focus on profiling CEOs and industry leaders. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago.

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