An employee holding a sign that says I love my job

Three in four workers suffering from ‘pleasanteeism’

We’ve heard of absenteeism, leaveism and presenteeism, and now pleasanteeism is making an appearance! ‘Pleasanteeism’ – the pressure to put on a brave face – is on the rise across the UK, as three-quarters (75%) of workers surveyed admit to feeling like they have to put on a brave face in front of their colleagues, regardless of how they’re really feeling.

According to new research by Lime Global, provider of workforce health and wellbeing solutions, pleasanteeism is up by 24% from May 2021 – when just over half (51%) of workers admitted to suffering from this phenomenon.

Cost of living is top concern contributing to pleasanteeism
Despite workers putting on a brave face, behind closed doors it’s a different story with a third (33%) saying they are struggling to cope at work (up from 26% in May 2021), and 34% not coping in everyday life.  A number of factors are contributing to people feeling this way, in particular over a third (34%) admit to being worried about money and the rising cost of living, while 28% are stressed at work and 17% are worried about the physical health of their family and loved ones.

Workers on lower levels of pay – in particular those earning between £15,001 and £25,000 per year – are bearing the brunt of these issues. Nearly half (46%) of respondents in this salary bracket admit to being worried about money and the rising cost of living, while 34% are stressed at work and 19% are worried about the physical health of their family and loved ones.

Pleasanteeism hits productivity
With more workers masking how they really feel than ever before, pleasanteeism is having a significant impact on the productivity of UK businesses. Findings from the research 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, surveyed workers take 2.75 days off per year as a result 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 impacts their ability to do their job effectively, with a third (33%) of those admitting that they have been unable to concentrate at work or had an unproductive day.  

Better support and benefits for every employee
Findings from the research demonstrate that more can be done to tackle pleasanteeism and the negative impact that it is having on UK workers and business productivity. In fact, half (50%) of respondents revealed that their expectations of their employer to support their mental health are higher now than they were before the pandemic, although they expect this support to be offered to every member of staff. Sixty-five per cent of workers surveyed said that they believe benefits should be offered to the whole of a company's workforce, not just the select few, while 45% said that it’s unfair that healthcare and wellbeing benefits aren’t currently offered to the whole of their workforce.

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 companies 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 an open dialogue around the challenges that people are facing, are key steps to producing 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.

There are a number of things employers can do to help build resilience amongst staff. These include:

  • Encouraging physical wellbeing.
  • Promoting a healthy psychological environment.
  • Providing specialist support to help maintain good physical and mental health.
  • Providing open communication and strong social networks.

 

Dr Ben Littlewood-Hillsdon, Medical Director at HealthHero, commented: 

“No one’s health or resilience should be taken for granted, particularly during difficult periods such as these. Acting to prioritise our own wellbeing and that of our colleagues doesn’t always require a lot of work – the first step is to create space to have an open conversation, ask questions and make it clear that there will be no negative repercussions from talking about the challenges people are facing.  Everyone’s health and resilience are equally important, employers really will reap the rewards if they take time to consider and support the wellbeing of each member of their team, that's the key to building a stronger and more successful UK workforce.”

Gethin Nadin, Director of Employee Wellbeing at Benefex, commented: 

“After a difficult couple of years, one positive from the COVID-19 pandemic is that it has forced many employers to pay closer attention to the health and wellbeing of employees. But for any support to be effective, it's vital employees are able to open up to their colleagues and managers about the way they are feeling.  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.”