More that one in three workers (35 per cent) have continued to work while unwell during lockdown according to a new research by Canada Life.
The survey found that almost half of those working from home (46 per cent) said they felt “pressure” to be present, via phone, email and other digital platforms, while 16 per cent — more than one million workers — cited redundancy fears as the reason for working through sickness.
This issues are particularly is affecting younger staff, who are more likely to be in junior roles. Canada Life found that 41 per cent of 26-34 year-olds and 33 per cent of 18-25 year-olds were working while they were ill. This compares to just 20 per cent of the over-55s.
But while Canada Life found higher cases of presenteesim, it also found that the lockdown had encouraged more cases of absenteeism, with 21 per cent of employees saying they had ‘pulled a sickie’ despite feeling fine.
Canada Life says this is more than twice as common among male employees, with 26 per cent doing so, compared to just 12 per cent of women.
The research found that presenteesim was an issue for those working from home, with a quarter (24 per cent) of workers admitting they felt the need to prove that they were working every day, 22 per cent are checking in with their colleagues or managers more often, and one in five (21 per cent) are checking their emails more regularly outside of working hours.
Nearly a fifth (18 per cent) have been working longer hours, 15 per cent are taking fewer breaks during the day, and over one in 10 (12 per cent) are taking no breaks at all.
Further to this, a quarter of employees are starting work earlier; 24 per cent are juggling their hours around childcare, and more than one in five (22 per cent) are finding working from home more stressful than being in the physical office.
However the survey found that many employers were recognising this problem. Athough 28 per cent think their company had an issue with presenteeism before the coronavirus pandemic, 21 per cent feel like it is worse since everyone has been working from home.
Canada Life said that encouragingly, 41 per centof employers have introduced measures to support workers struggling with presenteeism and 25 per cent are actively encouraging them not to work if they’re feeling under the weather.
Canada Life group insurance marketing director Paul Avis says: “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.”
He adds: “Employers have an active role to play in encouraging their staff to take the time they need to recover from illness, mental or physical, and it’s encouraging that 41 per cent have introduced measures to support struggling workers”
He adds that group protection policies come with a range of support services that can be accessed virtually. These can support physical and mental health, and can help catch illness early, and prevent conditions from worsening.