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  • Pleasanteeism is increasing among UK workers, with 75% of those surveyed now admitting to putting on a brave face at work, in comparison to 51% of those surveyed in May 2021
  • This decline in wellbeing is having a significant impact on the UK economy, with pleasanteeism driving up absences and accounting for as many as 67 million working days lost per year
  • Non-managerial staff are bearing the brunt of this phenomenon, with money and the rising cost of living among the top concerns contributing to pleasanteeism 
  • Lime backs UK workers’ call for greater health and wellbeing support for every employee not just the select few – to improve staff health, while driving down absenteeism and boosting UK productivity 

‘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, released today by Lime Global, the provider of affordable and accessible whole of workforce health and wellbeing solutions, pleasanteeism is up by 24 percentage points from May 2021 – when just over half (51%) of workers admitted to suffering from this phenomenon.

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, 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[2] 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 at work impacts their ability to do their job effectively, with a third (33%) of those who feel like they have had to put on a brave face admitting that they have been unable to concentrate at work or had an unproductive day.

Non-managerial staff bearing the brunt 

Non-managerial staff appear to be bearing the brunt of the phenomenon. When it comes to opening up about their problems, these workers are more likely to suffer in silence than managerial staff, with 30% not wanting to make a fuss about what they’re going through compared to 25% of managerial staff. 28% also don’t feel comfortable talking about their problems at work in comparison to 24% of managers, while 23% worry that people would talk behind their back, in comparison to 15% of managerial workers.

 Top concerns for non-managerial staff include worrying behind the scenes about money and the cost of living, which impacts 36% of non-managerial staff in comparison to 21% of managerial staff. The research also found that 29% of non-managerial staff admit to being stressed at work, in comparison to 24% of their managerial colleagues.

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, however they expect this support to be offered to every member of staff. 65% 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 their whole 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 businesses and HR managers act to 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 health and wellbeing, are key steps that HR managers should take to produce 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.

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.”

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