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Majority of employers seeing presenteeism in their workforce, report finds

27 Apr 2021 By Francis Churchill

Experts urge businesses to take preventative action to support wellbeing, as CIPD research shows home workers are worst affected

Employers have been urged to address ‘always on’ cultures, as a CIPD poll has found most HR professionals have seen presenteeism from staff working from home during the coronavirus crisis.

The latest Health and wellbeing at work report, from the CIPD and Simply Health, found that, of the 668 HR professionals polled, more than three-quarters (77 per cent) saw presenteeism in staff working from home, while a similar number (75 per cent) saw it in employees attending the workplace.

The report warned the sudden rise in home working caused by the pandemic and the increased use of digital technology had the potential to “enable an ‘always on’ culture”.



“There’s a concern that the boundaries between work and home life can be increasingly blurred, making it more difficult for many people to switch off,” the report said.

The report also found high levels of leavism, with 70 per cent of those polled reporting that they saw employees working outside of contracted hours or using annual leave to catch up on work.

The research also found that more than two in five (43 per cent) organisations experiencing presenteeism and almost half (47 per cent) of those seeing leavism were not taking any action to address these issues.


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Commenting on the report, Rachel Suff, senior policy adviser for employment relations at the CIPD, said employers needed a “strategic and preventative approach” to reducing work-related stress and unhealthy behaviours including presenteeism and leavism.

Healthy working practices needed to be role modelled by those in senior positions, and line managers should have the appropriate training and support to support others with their health and wellbeing, Suff added.

“Our research shows many organisations have taken steps to improve their health and wellbeing support over the last year, particularly regarding mental health,” said Suff. “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.”

The report found that the vast majority of employers (82 per cent) were concerned about the impact coronavirus was having on their workforce’s mental health and were taking additional steps to improve wellbeing.

However, less than two in five (38 per cent) organisations were providing line managers with training to support wellbeing following the outbreak, and just 43 per cent were providing training on supporting people with mental ill-health – down from 50 per cent the previous year.

Similarly, just half (50 per cent) of organisations have taken a strategic approach to wellbeing, while only a quarter (26 per cent) have increased their budget for wellbeing benefits since the start of the pandemic.

Angela Sherwood, chief people officer at Simplyhealth, said employers that embraced a preventative health model were more likely to build resilience and see improvements in productivity. “Employers are well placed to make a big difference here by driving positive behaviours such as regular health checks, taking breaks, nutritional advice and increased physical activity,” she said.

“As the health landscape continues to evolve rapidly, wellbeing strategies need to adapt to provide the holistic, relevant healthcare people need and deserve.”

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