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Employees feeling the pressure of presenteeism during pandemic

UK workers feel compelled to demonstrate availability to employers during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic despite a rise in flexible working arrangements.

According to the new Workforce View 2020 Global Research report, more than half (54%) of employees globally have felt pressure from their employer to come into work at some point during the pandemic.

This is despite official requirement or recommendation that non-essential workers are to stay at home for work where possible.

The report stated that although the proportion of respondents who report feeling pushed to be physically present in the workplace was highest at the start of the crisis, 16% of UK workers continue to feel that way.

Pressure to come into work is reportedly strongest among young people.

Over three-fifths of 18 to 24-year-olds worldwide (62%) said they have felt that they were expected to come in, compared with a quarter of over-55s (25%), the least pressured age group.

The report also revealed that line managers may be the ones setting the rules over flexible working.

While senior management and HR have directed workers to stay home, individuals in lower management tiers are making their own decisions, as 16% of workers reported that individual managers have determined whether they can work flexibly, regardless of official company policy.

Jeff Phipps, UK managing director of ADP, told HR magazine that the need for businesses to rapidly adopt flexible working practices has exacerbated the issue of presenteeism.

“Many businesses are struggling to operate under the new circumstances they find themselves in, which has put pressure on their people and led to longer working hours,” he said.

Further reading:

What six months of remote work has taught us

Are you living at the office or working from home?

Will coronavirus prompt a flexible working backlash?

Phipps said this is all happening under a “shadow of fear.”

He added: “The fear of losing your job and of not being able to find another, with all the consequences that brings. Presenteeism in this situation is a survival instinct, but it can be counterproductive, creating health issues and worse business outcomes.”

Phipps advised organisations to prepare their employees for what is coming.

“Be honest with them about what is known and what is uncertain," he said.

“If you don’t tell people the facts they will invent their own, which are usually worse than reality, and if you are dishonest then it will do irreparable harm to your reputation and relationship with your workforce.”

ADP Research Institute surveyed 11,428 workers in six countries around the world between 28 April and 14 May 2020, including over 3,000 working in the gig economy.