‘Always On’ Culture Exacerbating Workplace Presenteeism & Leaveism - CIPD

Without an employee wellbeing strategy in place, many organisations run the risk of experiencing employee presenteeism and leaveism, both of which negatively impact productivity, morale and financial position.

Focusing on the financial, physical and psychological wellbeing of your workforce, an employee wellbeing strategy is designed to support your staff and help them thrive.

Presenteeism & Leaveism

We hear a lot about ‘presenteeism’ — when an employee goes to work even though they are feeling unwell and should really stay home. In fact, research released by Vitality in February 2020 showed that the UK economy lost almost £91.9 billion in 2019 as a result of ill-health related absence and presenteeism in the workplace.

Then there is leaveism. This is where an employee uses their holiday allowance, flexitime, rest days and other leave entitlement schemes to have time off from work because they are unwell. The term ‘leaveism’ is also used when an employee takes work home that they cannot complete in normal hours, or works while on holiday or during other leave to catch up.

Both of these phenomena are unhelpful for employees and employers alike.

Employers need to be more aware

Now, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has called on employers to do more to recognise that the ‘always-on’ cultures many have, are creating their own mental and physical health epidemic.

According to the CIPD’s latest annual Health and wellbeing at work survey, more than three quarters (77%) of employers have observed ‘presenteeism’ among employees who have been working from home over the last year. Interestingly, this is slightly higher than levels of presenteeism in employees attending the workplace (75%). 

Furthermore, the survey of 668 professional and senior HR leaders in the UK also found leaveism to be an issue, with seven in 10 (70%) employers observing this unhealthy behaviour over the same period.

Worryingly, while more organisations have implemented measures to address these issues compared with last year, over two-fifths experiencing presenteeism (43%) and leaveism (47%) aren’t taking any action.

The CIPD says that many organisations have simply not taken enough effective action to combat the risks associated with an ‘always on’ culture during the pandemic. With the boundaries between work and home life more blurred than ever, and people finding it increasingly hard to switch off, this is a real concern.

Speaking about the findings of the research, Rachel Suff, Senior Policy Adviser, Employment Relations at the CIPD, said: “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.”

[Related reading: More Than A Quarter Of Organisations Struggling To Justify Wellbeing Spend]

Reviewing your existing arrangements

Although more and more businesses are beginning to focus on the health and wellbeing of their staff, it is important that employers review their existing arrangements on a regular basis to ensure everyone continues to be fully supported as their needs change.  To talk to an expert who can assist with this, get in touch with us today.

Author: Gill Adams - Head of SME Growth