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Under Pressure

Every time the phone rings, it's a stressed-out employee calling in sick. What can you do?

Our super-fast economy has finally led to super-fed-up workers, who are calling in sick in droves simply because they feel entitled to days off. Entitlement is at an all-time high for the second year in a row, accounting for 19 percent of unscheduled absences according to the 1999 CCH Unscheduled Absence Survey.

Though absenteeism declined 7 percent last year, unscheduled absences still cost employers an average of $602 per employee annually. And a good chunk of that change can be attributed to a rise in reported stress (which tripled between 1995 and 1999) and the subsequent spread of the entitlement mentality (which more than doubled).

"People feel they've been working longer hours-in some cases because jobs aren't being filled quickly due to the incredibly tight job market. Remaining workers end up picking up the slack," explains Susan Jacksack, a senior small-business analyst for the CCH Business Owner's Toolkit, a Web site run by the Riverwoods, Illinois, business and legal publishing firm.

Though preventive programs like flexible scheduling and child-care referral are perceived as helpful, disciplinary action is still the most popular option at 77 per-cent of the companies. Paid time off-banks of hours employees can use for various reasons-is perceived as the most effective program; however, only 27 percent of organizations use it.

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This article was originally published in the April 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Under Pressure.

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