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Usage of sick days by Evanston city workers declined 20 percent last year to an average of 2.56 hours per month — or a bit under four days per year.

City officials credit wellness and sick leave incentives offered by the city with encouraging employees to be healthier and more productive.

Last year it hosted the third annual Wellness Week, offering employees, covered spouses and retirees free biometric screenings, health risk assessments and flu shots. The program achieved its highest attendance ever, with 305 participants.

Other wellness programs offered to employees include:

  • Yoga and Zumba classes. City employees can enroll at a reduced cost throughout the year during their lunch break and after work hours.
  • Women Out Walking (WOW). The program, sponsored by the City’s Health & Human Services Department, encourages women to improve their health by becoming more active.
  • Weight Watchers. For the first time, City employees can join the program at a discount. Several employees have already enrolled.

Sick leave usage by department for the City of Evanston, including time off for job injuries and family leave. Reorganizations shifted some workers between departments over the period covered by the chart.

Comparative figures for other worker groups are all over the map.

A 2012 report by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that sick day usage in private industry varies substantially by occupation ranging from four days per year in professional and business services to two days per year in the construction industry.

A 2013 report by Gallup and Healthways said doctors reported taking the fewest sick days — about three per year while manufacturing and production workers and school teachers reported losing four-and-a-half days and service workers reported being off work sick nearly six days a year.

But a 2007 government study says U.S. workers took an average of 14 sick days — including four to take care of a sick child or other family member.

And a Michigan study reported in 2013 said state workers there averaged twice as many sick days as private-sector workers, while in Canada federal government workers are said to take two-and-a-half times as much sick time as workers in the private sector.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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