Presenteeism Rife Among Home Workers

In Business, Employee Benefits, Industry News by Tom Pullinger

The UK lockdown due to coronavirus has meant a large proportion of the working population has been furloughed or working from home. But a worrying revelation is that more than a third of home workers have continued to work during lockdown despite feeling unwell, a new study shows.

According to the research by Canada Life, 35% of people working from home have continued to work while feeling unwell. Why? One possible reason is because these workers feel obliged to. This is highlighted by the fact the survey also revealed that 46% said they felt “pressure” to be present via phone, email and other digital platforms. A further 16% — more than one million workers — cited fears of redundancy as the reason for working through sickness.

Interestingly, the issue of home working presenteeism tends to disproportionately affect younger staff, who are more likely to be in more junior positions. While just 20% of over-55s worked from home while feeling unwell, more than double that number (41%) of 26-34 year-olds and 33% of 18-25 year-olds did the same.

The Canada Life research also shows that despite many workers being away from the office and working from home, cases of absenteeism are still prevalent, with 21% of employees saying they had “pulled a sickie” even though they felt okay. The study also found that male employees were more than twice as likely to do this compared to their female counterparts (26% of men vs. 12% of women).

Presenteeism uncovered

When it comes to why home workers feel the need to be online and working every day — even when they aren’t feeling well — 24% said they simply felt the need to prove that they were working every day. A further 22% said they were checking in with their colleagues or managers more often, while one in five (21%) admitted to checking their emails more regularly outside of working hours.

In addition to this, 18% have been working longer hours while being based at home and 15% are taking fewer breaks during the day, with one in 10 (12%) saying they are taking no breaks at all.

As well as working when feeling unwell, home workers are also starting work earlier (25%), juggling their hours to suit childcare arrangements (24%) and finding working from home actually more stressful than being in the office (22%).

Employers aren’t oblivious

Despite revealing some worrying presenteeism trends, the Canada Life survey also uncovered that many employers were aware of the problems. Indeed, 28% said they thought their company had a problem with presenteeism before the COVID-19 outbreak, but now 21% feel like it’s worsened since people have been working from home.

Great encouragement should be taken in the fact that 41% of employers have introduced measures to support workers struggling with presenteeism. A further 25% are actively encouraging employees not to work if they’re not feeling fighting fit.


As the coronavirus lockdown eases and employees inevitably start returning to their normal places of work, employers have a role to play. As Claire Ginnelly, managing director of Premier Choice, recently highlighted, employee benefits can play an important role in helping employees return to work after long periods of absence. Read more in her blog [here], or contact us for assistance.

A highly motivated result’s driven individual with a wealth of experience in the Healthcare & Group Risk market. I have established strong relationships with large multinational clients through excellent interpersonal skills. I have advanced listening, negotiating & influencing skills that allow me succeed in a team based environment. I have comprehensive knowledge of the UK Healthcare & Group Risk market. This knowledge has been obtained through the Chartered Insurance Institute & self study.