Employees face ‘burnout’ as presenteeism spikes during the pandemic, study finds

The mental-health problems caused by the pandemic could lead employees to burnout, according to a study from UK insurer Aviva.

The 10 December report – ‘Embracing the Age of Ambiguity’ – found that 84% of employees took no sick days over a three-month period, up from 67% before the pandemic.

“Without the usual bookends of commutes or school runs to help structure the day, many employees find it hard to switch off,” said Debbie Bullock, wellbeing lead at the insurer. “Juggling work and home life in the same location has been stressful for many with employees feeling they are never entirely at work, but never fully away from it either.”

The survey of 2,000 UK employees working in organisations with over 1,000 employees in February and August suggests that ‘presenteeism’ became more common during the pandemic because the combination of technology and working from home meant that workers were “always on”.

Forty-four percent of employees said they never fully switch off from work, with the trend being most pronounced among younger people: 63% regularly checked emailed out of working hours, up from 48% before the pandemic.

Aviva had tips for employees to manage their stress. They included finding an activity to signal the switch from work to home, such as a walk or an exercise class. Another one was including working hours in email signatures to manage expectations.

READPoll of 144 hedge funds finds home working means ‘burnout a very serious concern’

The issue of mental health extends beyond the office: Mind found that more people have experienced a mental health crisis during the pandemic than ever previously recorded. The charity said that NHS data suggest that the number of referrals of people in crisis increased 15% from March until July.

To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email Bérengère Sim

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