‘Presenteeism worse in lockdown among some employees’

A new survey from Canada Life shows the pressure to be always on has increased in some instances for those working from home in lockdown.

Woman working at home


Nearly half (46%) of those who are now working from home feel more pressure to be present, and 16% are working through sickness because of redundancy fears, according to a survey by Canada Life.

The survey of 2,000 working adults found more than one in three (35%) have continued to work while unwell during lockdown. It says 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.

However,  21% have ‘pulled a sickie’ during lockdown when they’ve felt fine. This is more than twice as common among male employees, with 26% doing so, compared to just 12% of women.

The main reasons for working while ill where that people didn’t think their illness was serious enough to warrant a day off [40%], their workload was too great [26%], they didn’t want to hand over important work to colleagues [25%] and they were worried about the financial implications [22%].

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.

Moreover, 41% of SME bosses say they feel 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 like it is worse since everyone has been working from home. Nevertheless, 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.

Paul Avis, Canada Life group insurance marketing director said: “The ‘always on’ work culture we’ve adopted over the last decade has come to a head; lockdown is making 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.”


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