UK’s brave face workplace culture takes its toll as 7 in 10 manufacturing & utilities workers surveyed now suffer from ‘pleasanteeism’

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‘Pleasanteeism’ – the pressure to put on a brave face – is on the rise across the UK, as 70% of manufacturing & utilities 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 26 percentage points from May 2021 – when (44%) of workers surveyed 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 manufacturing & utilities businesses. Findings from the research revealed that 48% 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 2.64 days off per year as a result of this brave face culture. Across the entire UK workforce, pleasanteeism could therefore be accounting for as many as 67 million[1] days lost each year due to this phenomenon alone.

If left unaddressed, this could become a catastrophic problem, affecting absenteeism levels across businesses that are already struggling with serious staff shortages as a result of the pandemic – with over 83,000 job vacancies in the manufacturing sector.[2]

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 31% admitting that they have been unable to concentrate at work or had an unproductive day.

Cost of living and stress at work top concerns contributing to pleasanteeism 

Despite surveyed manufacturing & utilities workers putting on a brave face, behind closed doors it’s a different story with a quarter (25%) saying they are struggling to cope at work, and 3 in 10 (30%) not coping in everyday life.

A number of factors are contributing to people feeling this way, in particular 34% worry about money and the rising cost of living, and 25% admit to being stressed at work, while 24% are worried about issues in their personal lives.

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 workers and business productivity. In fact, 46% of manufacturing & utilities workers surveyed 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. 63% 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 48% said that it’s unfair that healthcare and wellbeing benefits aren’t currently offered to the whole workforce in their company.

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 among these workers. It’s therefore vital that companies 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 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 (21%), and greater flexibility in working hours (20%). 21% also said they would like their employer to be more mindful of their workload and work/life balance.

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.” 

About the data 

This research is based on a survey of 2,049 UK workers including 161 workers in the Manufacturing & Utilities industry, commissioned by Lime Global Limited and conducted by Censuswide between 22.11.21 and 24.11.21. Alongside a survey of 2,132 UK workers between 06.05.2021 – 21.06.2021. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.

[1] Research conducted by Censuswide 22nd to 24th November 2021, surveyed 2,049 UK full time employees. Censuswide abides by the MRS code of conduct. Data used for UK worker calculation; https://www.statista.com/statistics/1119783/full-time-workers-in-the-uk/#:~:text=Number%20of%20full%2Dtime%20workers%20in%20the%20UK%201992%2D2021&text=There%20are%20almost%2024.5%20million,Kingdom%20as%20of%20October%202021
[2] ONS vacancies in selected sectors, July – September 2021

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