Charlotte Steventon (5)

November 24, 2020

Posted by Home (ENG)

The rise of ‘e-presenteeism’.

 

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, employees have experienced an unprecedented shift to remote working. This change has brought both benefits and threats to organisations across Britain. It’s crucial that companies do not overlook the importance of these threats as the pandemic endures. Studies have found that presenteeism has risen sharply since lockdown began. Given its remote and digital nature, it has been coined ‘e-presenteeism’. More than half of HR leaders surveyed said they believed mental health issues such as stress, burnout, isolation, and loneliness has increased among their workforce since the coronavirus crisis hit.[i] But why have we seen this increase? And looking forward, how can companies tackle ‘e-presenteeism’?

 

Why have we seen an increase?

Overworking, financial insecurity, as well as the ill-prepared move to remote working, have been highlighted as the key reasons behind the increase in poor mental health and burnout…

  1. Over 40% of employees working from home are working longer hours than they would in a standard working day.[ii] Moreover, of those working longer hours, 21% say they cannot switch off from work, 12% feel that they are working less efficiently and 11% claim to have a heavier workload than usual.[iii]

  2. Many employees have felt job insecurity or financial insecurity during 2020. This can be hugely stressful as people feel an overwhelming lack of control over their finances. The furlough scheme has been extremely helpful in securing jobs but undoubtedly evoked worry that furloughed staff could be made redundant once the scheme ends. Furthermore, employees who are coming back from furlough may feel pressured to prove their worth, making it more likely for them to work while sick. [iv]

  3. As remote-working was forced upon the workforce, many workers were not prepared. They have the resources to carry out their job, but they do not have access to the same set-up from home as they would do in the office. Therefore, the line between their work and home environments has become fundamentally blurred. This is especially true for employees who don’t have space for a separate work environment, instead of working from spaces where they also eat, sleep, and relax. This can make it more difficult for employees to keep distinct working hours and fully switch off in their downtime.[v]

 

So how can companies tackle ‘e-presenteeism’?

  1. Leadership teams should set company-wide expectations. They must communicate that the distinction between working/relaxing hours is extremely important and encourage breaks to still be taken remotely as they would in the office. They could also set boundaries. For example, insisting that workers must not respond to emails outside of normal hours.

  2. Organise check-ins. Routine and regular communication can help employees maintain a healthy working schedule. This will also help managers check in on staff who may need to take sick leave or are struggling with motivation while working remotely and dealing with the stress of isolation and uncertainty.

  3. From speaking with our HR network, their feedback has suggested that training and upskilling could be key. All line managers have a responsibility to be properly equipped. Therefore, the rise in remote working could led to an increase in e-management and e-mental health training.

 

The increase in home-working is likely to continue (to at least some extent) even after COVID-19 is long gone. As mentioned there are many benefits to home working. However, to make the most out of these benefits, companies must react to the new threat of e-presenteeism and protect the remote workforce.

 

 

 

[i] https://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/news/articles/hr-managers-fear-rise-staff-absence-mental-ill-health-lockdown

[ii] https://www.itv.com/news/2020-04-28/more-than-40-of-employees-working-longer-hours-from-home-survey-finds

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] https://www.myhrtoolkit.com/blog/remote-workers-epresenteeism-how-to-manage#:~:text=The%20rise%20of%20e%2Dpresenteeism%20during%20lockdown&text=Given%20its%20remote%20and%20digital,dubbed%20'e%2Dpresenteeism'.&text=LinkedIn%20also%20surveyed%20employees%20and,monthly%20overtime%20since%20lockdown%20commenced.

[v] Ibid.