ResearchEmployers urged to act on high levels of presenteeism

Unhealthy working habits proving hard to break with high levels of presenteeism and leavism reported by employers over the last 12 months.
Avatar Content Team3 weeks ago4 min

A large proportion of staff continued to work at home whilst unwell over the last 12 months yet two in five employers haven’t taken steps to address the issue, a new survey has revealed.

Despite the sharp increase in homeworking and perceived flexibility benefits as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, the annual CIPD and SimplyhealthHealth and Wellbeing at Work’ report found that 77% of employers have observed ‘presenteeism’ – people working when unwell – in employees who are working from home in the last year, just slightly higher than levels of presenteeism in employees attending the workplace (75%). Seven in 10 employers also observed ’leaveism’ – using annual leave to work or when ill.

With more organisations reported to be taking steps to address these issues compared with last year, more than two-fifths of employers experiencing presenteeism (43%) and leaveism (47%) are not taking any action. This suggests that many organisations aren’t taking effective action to combat the risks of an ‘always on’ culture during the pandemic as a result of the increasingly blurred lines between work and home life.

The survey of 668 people professionals, representing 2.7 million employees, also reveals 82% of employers are concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on employees’ mental health, and most organisations are taking additional steps to improve employee health and wellbeing. The most common measures include an increased focus on mental health (84%) and more support tailored to individuals’ needs and concerns, such as flexible working (83%).

It also identifies key areas for improvement, such as equipping line managers with the right training, knowledge and skills to support people’s health effectively, taking a more strategic approach to enhance wellbeing and increasing investment in wellbeing.

Rachel Suff, a Senior Policy Adviser in Employment Relations at the CIPD, comments: “It’s crucial for organisations to address any issues that could be creating a culture where staff feel they are expected to work when ill or feel it’s the only way they can stay on top of their workload. Employers need to ensure that line managers are aware of the risks of presenteeism and being ‘always on’. Managers play an important role in supporting individuals with their health and wellbeing, and they should assess individual and team workloads to make sure they are reasonable, set clear expectations about taking breaks, and act as good role models for healthy working practices, such as taking time off when sick.”

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Work in Mind is a content platform designed to give a voice to thinkers, businesses, journalists and regulatory bodies in the field of healthy buildings.

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