02 May 2020

How businesses can address rising absenteeism resulting from the mental health impact of lockdown



New research[i] highlights concerns that home working is causing a rise in employee burnout and ‘e-presenteeism’, with almost three in five (58 per cent) HR managers fearing losing staff to sick leave as a result of the mental health impacts of working in lockdown.

The research, conducted by Mental Health Foundation and LinkedIn amongst HR professionals, found that more than half (54 per cent) said that mental health issues such as stress, burnout, isolation and loneliness had increased in their workforce since the coronavirus crisis hit and most employees are working from home.

Over three-quarters (79 per cent) said they believed the widespread implementation of home working encouraged so-called ‘e-presenteeism’ – where workers feel obliged to be online and available, even if feeling unwell or already having worked their contracted hours.

Adrian Lewis, director at Activ Absence said, “The impact of the coronavirus lockdown on employee’s mental health is starting to show as we go into the eighth week of measures to curb the spread of the virus.

“Many workers will be working remotely in isolation for the first time, which can be difficult, especially if they are used to working in a busy office environment.  Couple this with fears of catching the virus and job insecurity and this can amplify feelings of stress, anxiety and depression.

“People could also be feeling unwell from Covid-19 symptoms but feel they must continue working as they don’t want to appear to be slacking. Consequently, employers may find that more people end up being off sick, which could severely impact the productivity of their business and how quickly they can recover once lockdown is over.”

The research also surveyed adults working from home and found that the majority (86 per cent) said remote working was having a negative impact on their health. A third of workers (30 per cent) saying they were experiencing increased anxiety, with a similar number (31 per cent) reporting disturbed sleep.

Adrian Lewis adds, “This is a worrying time both for employees and employers. Now more than ever businesses need to be looking after their staff and supporting them to have good mental health at what is a very challenging time.

“One of the ways to do this is by using cloud-based absence management software to record absence and spot trends. There could be a tendency for managers not to log sick leave during this time, but it is essential to have an online system in place for doing so.

“This is the only way to know who is off when and ensure back to work interviews are carried out remotely to give people a chance to speak about any issues they may be having.

“Uncovering the root causes and working with people in order to address any concerns they may be having whilst working from home could really help reduce absenteeism and e-presenteeism going forward.

Absence management software can help companies manage people working remotely and  keep track of what is happening with their workforce and ensure they are mentally fit and well.”

For more information on absence management software visit www.activabsence.co.uk

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