The coronavirus pandemic has greatly shaken up the ‘norms’ of the working world. Currently, employees are juggling childcare and caring commitments while trying to hold a job down at the same time.
Despite the many pressures that staff are facing, new research from Canada Life found that almost half of UK staff (46%) feel more pressure to be ‘present’ when working from home during lockdown.
As a result, more than one-third of UK employees have continued to work while feeling unwell throughout this period.
The reasons for employees working while ill
The study cited the different reasons for staff members continuing to work while ill, with 40% saying that they didn’t think it was serious enough to justify a day off, while others quoted high workloads (26%) and not wanting to hand over important work to colleagues (25%) as reasons for continuing to work.
In addition, workers said that they were worried about the financial implications (22%) of taking a day off, while some felt too threatened by the risk of redundancy (16%). 15% said that they didn’t feel secure enough in their role, while 13% stated they didn’t think they would be able to get a doctor’s note.
When it came to age demographic, it was revealed that the younger staff members were more likely to work while feeling unwell. The study unearthed that 41% of 21 to 34-year-olds worked while ill, with 33% of 18 to 25-year-olds and 20% of over 55s doing the same.
With 24% of workers feeling that they have to prove they are working each day; it is unsurprising that they want to continue working while feeling under the weather.
The study unearthed changes to work patterns too, with 15% admitting to taking fewer breaks throughout the day and 18% working longer hours to keep up with mounting workloads.
Paul Avis, Canada Life Group Insurance Marketing Director, said that lockdown has made ‘always on’ cultures worse and, as a result, some employees feel that they can’t properly switch off.
He explained: “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.”
Avis added that “employers have an active role to play in encouraging their staff to take the time that they need to recover from illness, mental or physical…” With that in mind, it is important employers and HR consider how they can best offer support to staff.
How can HR encourage staff to switch off?
It is clear that the pandemic has greatly blurred the lines between personal and professional life. Therefore, it is important that employers encourage staff to switch off after work and allow them the time to properly recuperate to avoid burnout-related illness.
Hayley Randall, People Development Manager at ICD Property told HR Grapevine that, where possible, staff should try and have a dedicated office area at home so that they can close the door on it at the end of the day.
Shutting down work computers at the end of the day will avoid the temptation of doing extra work in the evening.
After finishing work, employees may find it useful to mimic a commute – perhaps going for a walk around the block – to differentiate home life and the office.
In addition, Alex Ehmcke, Operations and People Director at Pink News previously told HR Grapevine that the pandemic has shown that businesses play such an important role in their employees’ lives.
“Businesses are going to really have to continue any sort of mental health and wellbeing strategies that they have got and scale them up to support a more remote and agile workforce,” Ehmcke added.
To listen to our recent podcast on encouraging staff to switch off after work, please click here.