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Presenteeism during lockdown

21 Aug 2020

Levels reach record highs in organisations as stress at work rises

Unlike absenteeism, presenteeism isn’t always apparent. You know when someone doesn’t show up for work, but you often can’t tell when or how much illness or a medical condition hinders someone’s performance.

Lockdown has taken its toll on many UK employees, as new research reveals that nearly half (46%) of those who are working from home feel more pressure to be present, and 16% are working through sickness because of redundancy fears[1].

No signs of abating
With coronavirus (COVID-19) expected to push unemployment levels significantly higher this year, UK employees and employers were polled to understand how presenteeism in the workplace has changed during lockdown.

The findings reveal that the trend of presenteeism is showing no signs of abating, as more than one in three (35%) have continued to work while unwell during lockdown. This is affecting younger – likely junior – staff more, with 41% of 26-34-year-olds working while they’re sick and 33% of 18-25-year-olds doing so, compared to just 20% for the over-55s.

A quarter (24%) of workers admitted they feel the need to prove that they were working every day, 22% are checking in with their colleagues or managers more often, and one in five (21%) are checking their emails more regularly outside of working hours.

Nearly a fifth (18%) have been working longer hours, 15% are taking fewer breaks during the day, and over one in 10 (12%) are taking no breaks at all. Further to this, a quarter of employees are starting work earlier, 24% are juggling their hours around childcare, and more than one in five (22%) are finding working from home more stressful than being in the physical office.
Presenteeism extends to SME decision makers too, with 41% feeling more pressure to be present and available for employees during lockdown. And, although 28% think their company had an issue with presenteeism before the coronavirus pandemic, 21% feel as though it is worse since everyone has been working from home.

Encouragingly, 41% of employers have introduced measures to support workers struggling with presenteeism and 25% are actively encouraging them not to work if they’re feeling under the weather.

The ‘always on’ work culture we’ve adopted over the last decade has come to a head. Lockdown has made it worse and employees feel like they can’t switch off. As the physical and mental wellbeing of UK employees is stretched to the limit, productivity could be significantly hit.

But with so many people frightened they might lose their jobs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s no surprise they’re working through sickness and worried about the implications of taking time off.

Source data:
[1] Canada Life polled working UK employees and employers to understand how presenteeism in the workplace has changed during lockdown, 3 June 2020

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