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Pandemic Presenteeism

March 29, 2021

There has been lots of talk from organisations about the end of presenteeism now that people have a choice of where they can work from.  

For those of you who do not know what presenteeism is, it is when people work while they are mentally or physically unwell, leading to unproductiveness and mental fatigue for the individual.

I am puzzled by these comments about ‘the end of presenteeism’ as what has happened is that we now have 2 types of presenteeism; the sort we have always had, and now virtual, where people might be logged on remotely but are not “present”. 

The issues here I think are about choice, motivation, and unawareness.

Working from home and being stuck in one environment for both work and free time is an issue many of us are now facing. This new(ish) situation is triggering not just a lack of motivation to do work but also the feeling that, since one is working from home, one must be working as hard and as frequently as you can.

This is resulting in people working when they are not feeling well. The lockdowns have seen mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression skyrocket and working from home is increasing the strain of this.

The pandemic is still an unprecedented situation, one that no one can place a distinct time on a return to full “normality”. Knowing how long working from home will last even now lockdown is starting to be lifted is rather difficult. However, there are ways to combat the feeling of working when you might not be feeling well.

  • The first thing to remember is that you are not alone in this situation. These are incredibly challenging times, so you are not expected to find your work a complete walk in the park, asking for help should not be seen as a weakness.
  • Remember, it is important to set a daily structure to help motivate yourself to work but also to avoid overworking yourself. Factor in a lunch break and times for you to relax and have breaks from work. This will help you be more productive when you are working and also allow you to take important time away from work for your health and wellbeing.
  • Designating a work area is another great tip for increasing work productivity. It is widely thought to be damaging to your health if you work from your bed, for instance,[1] as this merges both your work and free time and prohibits you from separating the two. Pick a space that is just for work and keep other spaces for your own relaxation and downtime.
  • Working from home is not an ideal situation for anyone, especially in the midst of the pandemic, even though the lockdown is being relaxed. But there are ways to help you boost your wellbeing. The end of this pandemic may be uncertain, but we can still try and make the best with what we have.

If you are struggling with your situation, do not be afraid to reach out for help. If you work or live in Sheffield, SOHAS can be contacted for advice on workplace health issues by telephone on (0114) 2755760 or by using the ask an expert tab on our website: https://www.sohas.co.uk/


[1] 6 Reasons Working from Bed Isn’t a Good Idea (healthline.com)

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