35% of employees continue to work while sick

Just over a third (35%) of employees have continued to work from home while being unwell, according to research by Canada Life.

Its research, involving 2,000 working adults, and 500 small-to-medium business (SME) decision-makers, also found that two in five (40%) did not feel their illness was serious enough to take a day off work.

Furthermore, more than a third (36%) of respondents cited their workload as being too much for them to be able to warrant taking time off, 25% do not want to hand over important work to colleagues, and 20% said colleagues or senior staff make them feel guilty.

Additionally, 22% are worried about the financial implications of sick leave during this time, and 16% fear redundancy, with a further 15% not feeling secure enough in their job to call in sick.

The research also found that just under a quarter (24%) constantly feel the need to prove that they are working every day, while 22% are checking in with their co-workers and managers more often, and one in five (21%) are checking their emails frequently outside of their work hours.

Just under one in five (18%) have been working longer hours, 15% are taking fewer breaks, and 12% are taking no breaks at all. One in four are starting working earlier, and 24% are juggling their work around childcare commitments, while 22% of employees are finding home-working more stressful than being in their office.

Working from home has also had an impact on employers, with 41% feeling pressure to present themselves more to their employees. Although over one quarter (28%) think their employers had presenteeism issues before the pandemic, 21% believe it has been worse since their businesses has been working from home.

Positively, 41% of decision-makers have introduced new measures to support employees who are struggling with presenteeism, with a quarter (25%) encouraging them not to work if they are feeling unwell.

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Paul Avis, group insurance marketing director at Canada Life, said: “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. 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 Covid-19 (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% have introduced measures to support struggling workers. Remember group protection policies come with a range of support services, too.”