Wellbeing risk of always on culture highlighted

A new report highlights the rise of presenteeism and leaveism during the pandemic and calls for more action on wellbeing, for instance, looking at people’s workloads and line manager training.

Stressed women at laptop


More than three quarters of employers have noticed people who have been working from home in the last year working while they were ill.

This is slightly higher than levels of presenteeism in employees attending the workplace (77% compared to 75%), according to the latest Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development [CIPD]/Simplyhealth Health and Wellbeing at Work survey report.

The survey of 668 people professionals, representing 2.7 million employees, also found ’leaveism’ – working outside of contracted hours or using annual leave to work or when ill – is an issue, with seven in ten (70%) employers observing this unhealthy behaviour over the same period. While more organisations are taking steps 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 the findings suggest that many organisations haven’t been taking effective action to combat the risks of an ‘always on’ culture during the pandemic, whether at home or in the workplace.

The CIPD/Simplyhealth research found that unmanageable workloads is by far the top cause of work-related stress (59% of respondents). The CIPD says managers 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.

The majority (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%).

While there is a marked improvement in employers supporting employee health and wellbeing, the report identifies key areas for improvement around line manager training, strategic focus and resource allocation:
• Only 38% of organisations are providing more line management training to support employee wellbeing following Covid-19 and just 43% train managers to support people with mental ill health (down from 51% last year).
• Only half of organisations take a strategic approach to wellbeing.
• Just a quarter (26%) report their allocated budget for wellbeing benefits has increased as a consequence of the pandemic.

Rachel Suff, Senior Policy Adviser, Employment Relations at the CIPD, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has put a huge strain on employers and individuals. Employers should take a strategic and preventative approach to wellbeing in order to tackle work-related stress and unhealthy behaviour like presenteeism and leaveism and this must be role modelled by those in senior positions. They should also recognise the important role that line managers play in supporting individuals with their health and wellbeing. Managers should be equipped with the appropriate training, support and guidance needed to do this effectively.

“Our research shows many organisations have taken steps to improve their health and wellbeing support over the last year, particularly regarding mental health support. It’s important that employers don’t lose sight of the gains they have made in supporting people’s health and wellbeing as we move through the next stages of the pandemic and beyond. Increased support over the last year must not be viewed as a sticking plaster for the situation we are currently in. Instead, employers should view health and wellbeing as a business-critical issue and build on this support for the long-term.”

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