Staff wellbeing at risk from ‘presenteeism’ pressure

Yau Ming Low /

More than half of workers felt pressured to go into the workplace even when government advised against it, which could have had a significant impact on their wellbeing.

Research conducted by the ADP Research Institute, before the arrival of this month’s national lockdown in England, identified that 54% of staff globally felt pressurised by their employer to be physically present in the office, contrary to advice from local officials that non-essential workers stay at home.

The findings, released in early November, revealed that 16% of UK workers continued to feel pushed to go to their normal place of work.

Presenteeism was highest among young people: 62% of 18 to 24 year olds worldwide felt expected to go to work, compared with 25% of over 55s – the age group that felt the least pressure.

Earlier this week, the Resolution Foundation think tank said 35% of staff who were back in the workplace in September were worried about Covid-19 transmission, despite the steps employers had taken to make their premises ‘Covid-secure’.

Jeff Phipps, managing director at ADP UK, said the need to be physically present at work could be impacting staff wellbeing and morale: “The idea that employers are pushing for presenteeism – even if that means going against official warnings – is worryingly widespread, and for some workers it’s a persistent issue.

“Presenteeism is far from a new concern and the risks have long been clear, but in the midst of a global pandemic, insistent pressure to be in the office can put employees’ lives in danger. Plus, if workers are feeling pressured to turn up for work in person, whether that pressure is real or imagined, it can have a negative impact on their wellbeing and morale.”

He said hybrid working models, where organisations adopt a blend of office working and working from home, could also exacerbate the employees’ need to be present or work longer hours remotely.

“Being physically present in the office can be a great advantage when it comes to shaping culture and receiving promotions, so many may feel that they need to be in the workplace – or put in far longer hours remotely – in order to get ahead. Employers must be conscious of this when developing their long-term policies for flexible working or risk creating a disengaged, unproductive workforce,” said Phipps.

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