Redundancy fears mean not getting ill while working from home

Lockdown is beginning to take its toll on UK employees, as new research from Canada Life today reveals that

Nearly half of all employees working from home are feeling under increasing pressure to show they are actively working – and 16 per cent are fear redundancy so much they are working through sickness.

With coronavirus expected to push unemployment levels up to 10 per cent in the second quarter of this year, Canada Life polled working UK employees and employers to understand how presenteeism in the workplace has changed during Lockdown.

The findings reveal that this trend is showing no signs of abating, as more than one in three have continued to work while unwell during lockdown. This is having a greater affect on younger – possibly junior – staff, with 41 per cent of 26-34 year-olds working while they’re sick and 33 per cent of 18-25 year-olds doing so, compared to just 20 per cent of the over-55s.

On Rthe flipside, 21 per cent admitted they “pulled a sickie” during lockdown when they’ve felt fine. This is more than twice as common among male employees, with 26 per cent doing so, compared to just 12 per cent of women.

Getting into the detail, a quarter admitted they felt the need to prove they were working every day, 22 per cent are checking in with their colleagues or managers more often. One in five are checking their emails more regularly outside working hours.

As the physical and mental wellbeing of UK employees is stretched to the limit, productivity could be significantly hit

Nearly a fifth say have been working longer hours, 15 per cent say they are taking fewer breaks during the day, and more than one in 10 are taking no breaks. On top of this, a quarter of employees are starting work earlier, a similar number are juggling their hours around childcare, and more than one in five are finding working from home more stressful than being in the physical office.

Presenteeism also appears to extend to SME decision makers, with 41 per cent feeling more pressure to be present and available for employees. And, although 28 per cent think their company had an issue with presenteeism before the pandemic, 21 per cent feel  it has got worse. Encouragingly, 41 per cent of 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.

Paul Avis, Canada Life’s group insurance marketing director says this shows 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,” he said. “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.

“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.”