Life - Articles - Third of employees worked whilst unwell in last 18 months

Research from Canada Life reveals that over a third (35%) of UK adults have continued to work while feeling unwell in the past 18 months, highlighting the significant impact the pandemic is continuing to have on our working lives and habits. This figure rises to almost half (46%) among those aged 18-34.

 A fifth (21%) of respondents who admitted to working while unwell, said that they would have taken the time off if lockdown restrictions hadn’t applied. The most common reasons for working while being unwell included thinking the illness was not serious enough to take time off (50%, up from 40% last year), their workload was too great to take the time off (27%), and almost a quarter of respondents (24%) said they were worried about the financial implications of taking time off.

 The research also highlights the issue of ‘presenteeism’. Of those working from home, about a third (32%) felt a greater pressure to ‘be present’ at work – although this has dropped from 46% during the peak of the pandemic in 2020. The pressure to be present has affected younger employees in particular, with 37% of 18-34 year-olds feeling this way compared to only 27% of over 55s. Presenteeism is also impacting women more than men, with 37% of women feeling the need to be more ‘present’ at work compared to 28% of men.

 This pressure is being reflected in the hours employees are working with over a fifth (22%) of those working from home having reported working longer hours in the past 18 months than before the pandemic. Men tend to start earlier (24% for men vs 19% for women), with women finishing later (18% for men vs 23% for women). Meanwhile, around 20% of employees admitted to checking their emails more regularly outside of working hours than before.

 Similarly, the research shows that a fifth (20%) of employees working from home found their working day to be more stressful than before. This is reflected in the fact that 18% of people felt a need to prove that they work every day (rising to 23% for women) and 14% of employees felt pressure to attend every meeting or call throughout the day (rising to 19% for women).

 Dan Crook, Protection Sales Director at Canada Life comments: “Since the beginning of the pandemic, and the increase in working from home, we have all had to adapt to a new routine. We’ve had to get used to fewer interactions and less contact with our colleagues, alongside our increased use of technology. This has had a drastic effect on how our work days are structured, and how work gets done and in some cases it has had a negative impact on mental health, causing higher levels of stress and an anxiousness to be ‘present’.

 “It is so important for employees to take time off and employers have a key role to play in facilitating this. Group protection policies are a way for employers to demonstrate their commitment to employee wellbeing, including services such as GP access, mental health support and burnout prevention. It is through policies such as these, that employers can show that they are serious about the wellbeing of their workers, and in turn, encouraging employees to take care of their own wellbeing too.”

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