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‘Pleaseanteeism’ risks damaging employee mental health

UK employees are feeling pressure to put on a brave face for colleagues when they return to the office, according to a new report by healthcare provider Lime.

Over half (51%) of UK workers said they have experienced ‘pleasanteeism’, the feeling of needing to seem like they are okay even if they are not in front of their colleagues.

Employees who pretend to be well in the workplace risk significant negative impacts on their mental wellbeing, Lime warned. 

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The new report, Keeping up Appearances: How ‘Pleasanteeism’ is Eroding Resilience, also found a quarter (25%) of respondents who are returning to the workplace or have been working from home are worried about having to be the best version of themselves when they go back.

Almost one in five (19%) are also concerned about their stress being visible to others. 

Helen Wilson, talent manager at marketing company Be the Business, said the report's findings demonstrate an unspoken issue in the workplace.

She told HR magazine: “This brave face culture, or ‘pleasanteeism’, could have dire consequences for employees and employers alike.

"Burnout and worsening wellbeing amongst employees could result in productivity losses, a discontented, disengaged workforce, and increased staff turnover for businesses as people increasingly prioritise a more supportive working environment.

“Employees are no longer allowing their mental health to fall by the wayside, and the businesses that put employee wellbeing at the heart of everything they do will come out on top.”

Just 16% of respondents felt their mental health was well supported at work, despite 81% wanting their employers to support their mental wellbeing.

Just under half (42%) of respondents said they expect their employer to do more to support mental wellbeing post-pandemic, and 40% said they would look for a new job if their employer didn’t do so.

Shaun Williams, CEO and found of Lime, said the past 18 months have had a huge impact on people’s lives.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “The long-term repercussions of the pandemic are likely to be felt for years to come, and it’s important we act now to be aware of and prioritise both our own mental health and that of those around us.

“We know that employers have a lot on their plates and each workforce will require unique approaches for tackling mental health challenges.

“But there are plenty of simple and affordable avenues for doing so.”

Williams said if employers and HR teams prioritise mental health in the workplace, then employees can support one another to be as healthy, resilient, happy and productive as possible.

The report found workers would welcome simple initiatives such as employers being more mindful about workload and work/life balance (25%) and greater flexibility in working hours (22%) to improve their mental wellbeing.

Time out to deal with personal commitments (20%), and mental health days off work (20%) were also important to employees.