Last reviewed 7 May 2021

The pandemic has heightened an “always on” work culture with most employers having seen presenteeism and leaveism in staff over the last year, according to the latest Health and Wellbeing at Work report.

Produced by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and Simplyhealth, the report is based on a survey of 668 people professionals, representing 2.7 million employees.

It found “leaveism” — working outside of contracted hours or using annual leave to work or when ill — is an issue, with 70% of employers observing this unhealthy behaviour over the same period.

While more organisations are taking steps to address these issues compared with last year, the report highlights that over two-fifths experiencing presenteeism (43%) and leaveism (47%) are failing to take action.

Boundaries between work and home life have become increasingly blurred for many people working from home, the CIPD points out, making it difficult for people to switch off.

The research found that unmanageable workloads is by far the top cause of work-related stress (59% of respondents), which could contribute to presenteeism.

Managers should, the report argues, 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.

Rachel Suff, Senior Policy Adviser, Employment Relations at the CIPD, said: “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, she went on.

Health and Wellbeing at Work 2021 is available at https://www.cipd.co.uk/Images/health-wellbeing-work-report-2021_tcm18-93541.pdf.

Comment by Kayleigh Frost, Head of Clinical Support at Health Assured

Although it may seem beneficial to an employer that staff are regularly working out of hours or unwell to get jobs done, this report shows how damaging it can be for both employers and staff.

Staff who cannot properly rest can become burned out, less productive, and disillusioned in their role, meaning employers may start to see issues with staff retention and morale.