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Pleasanteeism – the new face of the workforce?

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50% of workers take off work to avoid putting on a ‘brave face’

According to new research conducted by Lime Global, a provider of affordable and accessible workforce health solutions, ‘pleasanteeism’, the pressure to put on a brave face – is on the rise across the UK, with three quarters (75%) of workers surveyed admitting to feeling like they have to put on a brave face in front of their colleagues, regardless of how they’re really feeling.

This new phenomenon is having a significant impact on productivity according to the research, with more workers masking how they really feel than ever before. Findings revealed that over half (54%) of employees have taken time off work due to feeling like they have to put on a brave face.

In fact, on average, workers take 2.75 days off per year because of this brave face culture. Across the entire UK workforce, this could add up to as many as 67 million days lost each year due to pleasanteeism alone.

If left unaddressed, this could become a catastrophic problem, affecting absenteeism levels across businesses that are already struggling amid the pandemic, and staff shortages caused by Brexit and the rapid spread of Omicron.

Not only is this driving up absence rates, but workers also revealed that having to put on a brave face at work impacts their ability to do their job effectively, with a third (33%) of those who feel like they have had to put on a brave face admitting that they have been unable to concentrate at work or had an unproductive day.

Non-managerial staff bearing the brunt 

Non-managerial staff appear to be bearing the brunt of the phenomenon. When it comes to opening up about their problems, these workers are more likely to suffer in silence than managerial staff, with 30% not wanting to make a fuss about what they’re going through compared to 25% of managerial staff, while 28% also don’t feel comfortable talking about their problems at work in comparison to 24% of managers, while 23% worry that people would talk behind their back, in comparison to 15% of managerial workers.

Top concerns for non-managerial staff include worrying behind the scenes about money and the cost of living, which impacts 36% of non-managerial staff in comparison to 21% of managerial staff. The research also found that 29% of non-managerial staff admit to being stressed at work, in comparison to 24% of their managerial colleagues.

Shaun Williams, CEO & Founder, Lime Global Ltd, commented: “After two years of stress and anxiety caused by the pandemic, concerns over health and wellbeing are understandably on the rise. It’s therefore vital that businesses and HR managers act to offer each one of their employees as much support as possible. Not only is it the right thing to do, but amid a backdrop of economic uncertainty, low productivity, and staff shortages, it will be crucial to help drive down absenteeism and protect businesses’ bottom lines.

“Providing access to inclusive healthcare benefits – that are designed to make a tangible impact – combined with a company culture that supports health and wellbeing, are key steps that HR managers should take to produce a happier, healthier and more productive workforce.”

Many workers also said they would welcome small initiatives from their employer including mental health days off (24%), and greater flexibility in working hours (22%). While 23% said they would like their employer to be more mindful of their workload and work/life balance.

Gethin Nadin, Director of Employee Wellbeing at Benefex, also commented: “There is clearly a desperate need for us all to create cultures at work whereby sharing your vulnerability and discussing whatever challenges you may be facing is not seen as a weakness. Employees should not feel like taking time off is the only way to deal with increased stress. This work will now be a vital determining factor for the workforces that retain engaged, happy and productive employees.”


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